Page last updated at 06:01 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 07:01 UK

'Unique' pub shut after sign row

Gemma Williams
BBC News

The Cherry Tree Inn
The Cherry Tree Inn also housed a grocery shop and a Post Office

The only Welsh pub to feature in all 35 editions of the Good Beer Guide has shut its doors after it was forced to remove a direction sign.

The Cherry Tree Inn's owners say they lost trade after Monmouthshire council made them remove a roadside sign pointing visitors up a lane.

The pub in Tintern, Momouthshire, has now been put up for sale and its long run in the ale-lovers' bible has ended.

Monmouthshire council said the sign did not comply with planning regulations.

Steve Pocock, who bought the Cherry Tree Inn in 2000 with his wife Jill, said he "felt dreadful" after calling time on the pub, which dates back in parts to the 17th century and had been recommended and approved for the Good Beer Guide every year since 1972.

Next year's edition, compiled by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), has gone to press without it being listed - leaving only nine UK pubs out of 4,500 listed in the guide holding the honour of being regulars since the start.

It all seems so silly - you see signs all over the place twinning towns with obscure places but you can't have a sign saying there's a nice pub down the lane

Roger Protz, the Good Beer Guide's editor

Mr Pocock said the business expanded after he extended the Cherry Tree Inn around the old pub building in 2003 and introduced a grocery shop and a post office in its basement for locals after the Tintern branch closed. This in turn was shut last month as part of nationwide post office closures.

He said the pub's trade took a turn for the worse after he lost his three-year battle with Monmouthshire Council, which ended up in court, to keep an A-board sign on the main A466 Chepstow to Monmouth Road.

He said visitors and passing trade could not find the pub without the sign as it was half a mile up a small lane and he insisted it was not obstructing drivers' views and was placed on a green and not on a footpath.

"It left us with financial problems and we had to let all our staff go, except us and one other," said Mr Pocock, who suffered a stroke in 2006 but is now running the Anchor Hotel in Tintern.

"We took out a huge loan and now just have the building. I just feel so sad about it."

Roger Protz, the Good Beer Guide's editor, said it was a "fantastic achievement" for a pub to be listed in every guide.

The bar at the Cherry Tree Inn
Real ale lovers recommend pubs for the Good Beer Guide

"Sadly the chain has been broken now for the Cherry Tree, there are only nine left and I'm devastated," he said.

"It all seems so silly - you see signs all over the place twinning towns with obscure places but you can't have a sign saying there's a nice pub down the lane."

Chris Gillette, chairman of the Gwent branch of Camra, added: "It's more than just a pub, it's quite unique. It was a post office and you could buy your groceries there. It was very special to a lot of people."

A spokesman for Monmouthshire Council's planning department said they had worked to accommodate Mr and Mrs Pocock and suggested they make the sign smaller to conform to planning regulations.

"Mr and Mrs Pocock chose to ignore our advice and consequently planning consent was refused," the officer said.

"They were asked to remove their sign, which again, they refused to do.

"We had no choice but to take them to court to get our planning regulations enforced. The court found in our favour, which is proof that we acted correctly.

"We have a duty to make sure that Monmouthshire remains a beautiful county which can be enjoyed by all and is not cluttered by signs and we will continue to enforce this."

Post Office opens in pub cellar
05 Mar 04 |  South East Wales

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