Pubs in the North are closing at the rate of five a week prompting concerns over the long term future of the region’s watering holes.
New figures today show a rise in weekly closures has accelerated from three per week in December last year to five this summer.
Campaigners are now calling for an urgent change in the law to make it harder for pubs to be demolished or converted to supermarkets and convenience stores.
Pubs in the region which have been become supermarkets in recent years include The Lodge, in Durham City, which is now a Sainsburys and The Prospect in Sunderland which became a Lidl.
Supermarkets tend to favour taking over drinking venues as no planning permission is needed to convert them into supermarkets.
Camra – the Campaign for Real Ale – has now launched a campaign calling for planning applications to be required before a pub is demolished or converted to another use.
The organisation says that in most cases communities have been powerless to save their locals.
Neil Walker, from Camra, said:
“Far too many pubs are still closing and unfortunately this is true for the North East Region too. With five net pub closures a week it is clear that more needs to be done to protect pubs and encourage more people to visit their local more often.”
The situation has become so desperate that some communities have resorted to buying their local pubs to prevent them from closing or standing empty.
Villagers living in Slaley in Northumberland have been working hard to keep the much-loved Rose and Crown watering hole open after taking over the venue last August.
They set about plans to buy the pub themselves and formed Slaley Community Assets Ltd (SCAL), creating shareholders who invested around £500 each.
The group managed to collect more than £200,000 in less than three months and the cash was then used to secure a mortgage towards the final £250,000 purchase price.
David Allsop, a director of SCAL, said the pub was finally making a profit, but not after a lot of hard work in terms of maximising the use of the venue.
Mr Allsop said:
“For the first 11 months we were making a loss, we managed to break even for one month, and the past two months have seen a profit.
“The reason we have been able to do that is by using the whole building. We are taking revenue from drinks, food, as well as running a B&B and opening a self-catering holiday let.
“I would say it’s near impossible to run a pub – outside the city centre – on just drinks revenue alone, so I understand why all these places are struggling to survive.”
Landlords argue that pubs’ demise has been fuelled by supermarkets, which cut the price of lager so much it was cheaper than bottled water.
This has prompted campaigners to demand more is done to tackle cheap supermarket deals.
Despite repeated efforts, plans to introduce a minimum price of 40 pence per unit of alcohol in England and Wales have failed to turn into a reality.
A report this week showed the positive impact of pubs on rural communities.
According to the latest research, the pubs act as a local meeting point and hub for the community to meet and engage with each other.
Source – Sunday Sun, 12 Oct 2014
> Northumberland Conservatives get increasingly weird…
Conservatives have called for a review of the use of a working men’s club as a polling station.
Tories are demanding the club at Bedlington, Northumberland, not be used in future, given they believe it has a “direct affiliation” to the Labour party.
They say supporters and others feel “uncomfortable” voting there given its apparent political leanings and that they “would not dream” of Conservative clubs in the county being used.
> So, Ok, my local polling station was a Church of England church hall… I’m not a Christian, should I complain about feeling uncomfortable using it ?
Of course not, because I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t feel anything – its just a space temporarily housing the polling station.
However, Labour accused them of “sour grapes” following their third place finish at the recent European elections in the region, and said parties have the chance to protest against polling station venues before votes are cast.
The club confirmed it is used by one Labour councillor to host surgeries, but insisted it has no affiliation with Labour and that is it politically neutral.
The authority which conducts elections in Northumberland said it hosts polls at a number of social clubs.
The calls for a review relate to the use of Bedlington Netherton Social Club and have been lodged with Northumberland County Council.
They have come from the Morpeth and Wanbseck Conservatives (MWC) acting on a complaint from a local resident.
MWC chairman Richard Wearmouth said he belived the Netherton site might – like other working men’s clubs – pay a subscription to the Labour party.
“It might have people less inclined to go in and vote, I do not know. In Bedlington there is more people voting Conservative in increasing numbers. We find that anything can disincentivise people to vote.”
> It might have people less inclined to go in and vote, I do not know. So he doesn’t know, he has no proof, but he’s still sounding off about it ?
In Bedlington there is more people voting Conservative – shouldn’t that read ‘there are more people…‘ ?
I blame Tory education cuts…
A spokesperson for the Labour group on Northumberland County Council said: “The county council makes a non political decision to designate polling stations and they follow electoral law when making that decision.
“Political parties generally have a right to highlight issues with polling stations before elections.”
A spokesman for the county council added: “The location was swapped from a mobile classroom at St Benet Biscop High School due to it not being accessible by wheelchair.
“Polling stations are chosen due to their location and accessibility. In Northumberland we use a wide variety of locations that include churches, pubs and a football club.
“The elections team is always happy to receive alternative suggestions on location, however this is the first complaint they are aware of after changing the location over three years ago.”
Ian Rosemurgey, secretary of the Netherton club, said Labour county councillor Terry Johnstone holds his surgery there once a month.
But he added: “We are politically neutral and we are affiliated to the CIU (Club and Institue Union), not Labour, Conservative or anything like that.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 16 June 2014