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The BBC's Jennie Bond
"The pub has indeed become the hub"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Brewing up new business
The White Hart's traditional business
Serving up a pint... and much else at The White Hart
Prince Charles fears the rural way of life is "at risk of collapsing" in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis and has unveiled an action plan to help stop the economic rot.

He suggested village pubs be turned into communal "hubs", embracing the jobs formerly done by post offices and general stores, and cited the White Hart in Blythburgh, Suffolk as a shining example.

Blythburgh in Suffolk is a tiny hamlet with a population of only 290, so the closure 18 months ago of its post office and general store had a devastating effect.

Residents were forced to travel five miles to the nearest town - Southwold - to collect their pensions, pay their car tax, or buy groceries.

Quite apart from the obvious financial implications of the closure, the loss of such businesses also deprived local people of a social focus - somewhere to gather, chat and network.

It would have been yet another case of a rural UK community breaking up were it not for the innovation of the local pub's landlords.

Julie and Mike Davies run The White Hart, a Grade II* listed building on the main A12 London to Lowestoft road.

They persuaded the pub's owners, the Southwold-based Adnams Brewery, to let them re-open the general store in a redundant coal barn next to the pub.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles: Pub's success an inspiration
The brewery helped cover the costs of making the barn habitable and Suffolk Coastal District Council granted permission for the building's use to be changed.

Mr and Mrs Davies had temporarily run the post office from the pub but that side of the business has now been transferred to the barn.

They have employed extra staff to man the shop and villagers can now do everything in there from collecting their pensions and Giros, to buying newspapers, cigarettes, sweets, videos and DVDs.

It is open for 12 hours from 7am and Adnams spokesman Steve Manning told BBC News Online there had been a knock-on benefit for the pub.

It's great for the pub

Steve Manning
Adnams spokesman
He said: "It's great for the pub. Some people who are not regulars are not keen to go into a strange pub but, by getting to know the people in the shop, that gives them the confidence to go in and have a drink."

He said the brewery was also in the process of adding a restaurant, and four en suite bedrooms for the holiday trade in another building at the White Hart.

But Mr Manning suggested the White Hart's success story worked because it was a "cracking" site right on the main road.

He said it probably would not have been as successful without the passing trade.

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15 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Lifeline for village post offices
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