Let’s call time on demise of village pubs

Last orders - the Old Black Lion at Gedney
Last orders - the Old Black Lion at Gedney
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Once they were at the heart of every community, but one by one South Holland seems to be losing its village pubs.

Over recent months and weeks, more pubs – the Old Black Lion in Gedney, The Bull in Fleet Hargate and the Bull’s Neck in Penny Hill – have called time, with others struggling to stay open.

Darren Fiddler, manager of the Rose and Crown in Holbeach Hurn, says the pub industry is a “dying trade” and more help is needed to keep them going.

He said: “We’ve lost so many pubs locally – the Bull’s Neck in Penny Hill has gone and The Bull in Fleet Hargate has closed, too.

“We had to sell our pub in August last year because we just couldn’t make it pay, but we hoped that we could do something to keep the pub going.

“I’ve been manager here for eight years, so I know what we need to do to improve.

“We wanted to extend the public house to incorporate a larger restaurant than what we currently have, as well as a village shop, and we also wanted to extend our caravan park, too.

“Our plans to do this were not approved by the council, so we have had to appeal them which has cost us a lot of money to do.

“We were meant to have a decision by February, but we’re now looking at mid-September.

“It’s a shame because we had done everything that was asked of us and we thought that would help us to make it, but we are still waiting to find out.”

According to Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), 287 pubs have closed in the Midlands, which covers South Holland, since December last year, compared with 115 opening, leaving the region down 172.

This represents five more closures per week than last year.

Darren added: “It has been really hard for us – the owners of the pub are getting pretty sick and tired of not being able to make a big enough profit out of the pub.

“It’s OK to scrape by and pay the bills, but if you own a business you want to make a profit – it’s the whole point.

“I think maybe tourism in the area is something to look at – why hasn’t Holbeach got the chance to bring tourists in?

“Visits from tourists could really improve business for us, so I hope that in the end, when the decision comes, it will be the one we want.

“If I’m honest, without the restaurant and caravan park expansions, there is no chance of survival for us.”

Last year, the Government announced up to a quarter of a billion pounds was being made available for villages, local estates or community groups to buy assets such as pubs. Ministers believe they still have a future as community enterprises where the need for big returns is less important if the initial capital can be found to get the businesses off the ground.

n What do you think about pub closures? Email your letters to jeremy.