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Pubs given lifeline

PUBLISHED: 09:00 07 August 2009 | UPDATED: 08:24 01 August 2010

A COUNCIL is offering a lifeline to struggling pub owners, licensees and villagers hoping to save their local.

At least 27 pubs have closed in Suffolk in the last two years leaving a number of areas in the county without a central meeting place and focal point for the community.

A COUNCIL is offering a lifeline to struggling pub owners, licensees and villagers hoping to save their local.

At least 27 pubs have closed in Suffolk in the last two years leaving a number of areas in the county without a central meeting place and focal point for the community.

In a bid to buck the trend, Suffolk County Council is working closely with Pub is the Hub, a scheme which was launched by Prince Charles in 2001 and encourages village pubs to diversify to safeguard against closure.

Through the initiative the county council can provide a much-needed cash injection from the Rural Economy Scheme to support rural pubs considering diversifying and developing their business further.

A criterion for approval of funding relies on evidence of local need for the proposed service as well as helping to secure the future of the pub.

Under the scheme, once agreement to support the proposal has been reached, capital grants of up to 50pc of the total eligible project costs are available, to a maximum of £5,000.

Also licensees interested in the opportunity can benefit from the services of a specialist advisor who will help them through the application process.

One Suffolk pub that has already taken advantage of this support is the Plough Inn at Wissett, near Halesworth.

Earlier this year a new village store was unveiled behind the pub providing basic provisions and locally sourced produce.

Having already identified the need for a shop in the village, landlords Nick and Debbie Sumner saw an opportunity to do something for their local community as well as ensure the survival of their business in the difficult economic climate.

Mrs Sumner said: “Some local pubs do not do enough. This is a community pub - it does work for the community. We have got to work around the community and see what they want rather than sit and wait for people to come to us.”

Bruce Provan, county council portfolio holder for skills and economic development said: “This is an excellent example of what can happen when pubs and licensees work together with their local community and play a part in helping address their needs.

“We know these are difficult times for pubs and rural life in general, that is why this scheme is so important. It not only helps pubs to broaden their business base, but as in this case, it can also provide an important outlet for local farms and producers.

“Pubs have been at the heart of village life for centuries and to ensure they remain there, we are committed to supporting them through the unprecedented challenges facing them during these times”

For more information about the Suffolk Rural Economy Scheme contact Dawn Turpin, the council's economic development officer on 01473 264817 or by emailing dawn.turpin@suffolk.gov.uk or visit www.onesuffolk.co.uk/creditcrunchsuffolk

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