Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Royal rescue plan for rural pubs

Prince Charles
Prince Charles at the Viaduct Pub during a visit to Froncysyllte, near Wrexham, this week.

A rescue plan for rural pubs which could see them providing community services such as post offices and shops has been launched in Wales.

The Pub is the Hub scheme, which is the brainchild of Prince Charles, has helped save pubs in England since it was launched in 2001.

It will now run in Denbighshire as part of a three-year £175,000 project.

It is estimated five pubs are closing every day in the UK and almost 2,000 closed last year, many in rural areas.

In England, there are over 350 pubs taking part in the scheme and the services they offer range from a post office and shop to a school meals service.

Some even have church services and crèches.

The scheme, which is open to pubs in rural towns and villages in Denbighshire, will provide expert help and financial assistance for pubs to diversify.

Malcolm Harrison, a former director of Thwaites brewery and is the Pub is the Hub project leader for Denbighshire, said the scheme could help revitalise local communities while helping save pubs.

Through the Pub is the Hub model, services that have been falling away in rural areas can be restored
Malcolm Harrison

"We want to encourage pubs and licensees to work together with their local communities and play a bigger part in helping to address community needs," he said.

"This can mean opening up a post office and shop where one has closed but it can mean much more as well.

"Pubs that have opened shops often provide an outlet for produce from local farms - there is a lot of synergy here, which can also help to broaden the pub's business base.

"Through the Pub is the Hub model, services that have been falling away in rural areas can be restored."

Landlord Adrian Jones, of the Griffin Inn, in Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd, said: "It's definitely going to be of interest to landlords and to village communities.

"These are difficult times for pubs and rural life generally with village schools and rural post offices under threat so if this scheme can maintain the services on which a community depends then so much the better."

Job losses

The Denbighshire scheme, which is being piloted by rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd, comes as UK ministers face questions about the decline of local pubs at a ministerial summit.

They will also discuss plans to raise alcohol taxes - an issue many licensees claim is behind a lot of pub closures.

The British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that 2,000 pubs have closed across the UK since beer tax was increased in the 2008 budget, resulting in 20,000 job losses over the last year.

The Prince of Wales, who is patron of Pub is the Hub, has said he believes rural communities "are facing unprecedented challenges" and the country pub which, he says "has been at the heart of village life for centuries, is disappearing in many areas".

Cadwyn Clwyd's rural services officer Helen Roberts said: "This is the first time it has been done in Wales and I know the Prince of Wales is watching it very closely."

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