Call for communities to save local pubs
PUBLISHED: 15:17 12 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:17 12 September 2013
There are positive signs for the county’s brewing industry – the Campaign for Real Ale(CAMRA) Good Beer Guide 2014 shows 18 new breweries were established in East Anglia last year, bringing the figure up to 119.
But, with 100 Suffolk pubs closing in the last five years, the guide also pays tribute to communities who have rallied to protect their local pubs from unchecked development by using special powers introduced under the Localism Act to ensure the building cannot be sold without the group being given the opportunity to bid.
Since the law came into effect in September last year, 17 ‘community assets’ have been registered across the county, including five pubs.
Nigel Smith, area organiser for Suffolk CAMRA, has urged residents to save their local pubs.
“In Suffolk we have currently lost about 100 pubs in the last five years with over half – possibly up to two thirds – of them unlikely to ever trade again,” he warned. “Some of these ventures were historic inns and beer houses with long histories of serving their local community.
“Pubs offer a focus for the community but rapidly changing social patterns, poor management and lack of investment by some of the large pub owning companies, fierce competition from local supermarkets, higher taxation and legislation from national governments, and very poor financial returns for many hard working landlords have all conspired in recent years to call time on too many houses.
“It has been a tragedy for many local pubs.”
A total of 44 pubs alone closed in the East of England between September 2012 and March 2013, the latest figures show, according to research company CGA Strategy.
When the Engineers Arms in Leiston suddenly closed earlier this year the town was keen to ensure that the site, in the heart of a conservation area, was not bought by developers and turned into housing.
The pub – put on the market by Adnams – has now been registered as an “asset of community value” and plans are afoot to ensure it still plays a prominent role.
The proposals have been led by members of Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council but a team of volunteers will be required if the dreams are to become a reality.
The plan involves installing a kitchen to allow the pub run as a going concern, while in the garden it is hoped to build a cycling centre from which people can explore the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
This will combine with plans by the Leiston Works Railway group to restore the train track running down the side of the building.
It is also hoped to use the premises to expand the neighbouring library and some of its other rooms for community uses.
Meanwhile, it is felt the curtilage of the building lends itself to expanding the collection in the nearby Long Shop Museum and providing a small building for the local family history group.
Clerk to the town council John Rayner said: “The Engineers Arms is in a conservation area in the centre of town. Councillors and a lot of residents felt it would be a shame to turn it into a housing development so we listed it as a community asset.
“A major part in the thinking was also the Leiston Works Railway, which is currently restoring the track that runs down the side of the property. We didn’t want to see the pub sold off to a developer and the group not being able to complete its project.”
The community now has six months to raise the money to purchase the pub and Mr Rayner encouraged anyone who could help to get in touch.
“Although the council is driving the project we need volunteers to get involved and take it forward, otherwise it will be sold ,” he said.
Anyone who thinks they can help can contact Mr Rayner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01728 830388.