Close a pub, kill a community: a study shows the importance of our large rural pubs


Rural pubs play an important role in bringing rural communities together, a study by a professor from Tyneside has shown.

But the findings of Ignazio Cabras, professor of entrepreneurship and regional economic development at the University of Northumbria, come as the number of pubs shrinks rapidly.

“The village pub is a key part of rural England.

“They are often described as ‘friendly’ and ‘welcoming’ and many believe that they promote social relations between residents, strengthen the level of cohesion in villages and positively contribute to community well-being,” said Prof Cabras. .

“But very few studies have attempted to scientifically verify whether this is the case.”

In the study, funded by the British Academy, Professor Cabras and Dr Matthew Mount examined communities and parishes of no more than 3,000 people, located at least five miles – or 10 minutes by car – from cities. or large parishes of 5,000 or more inhabitants.

They also collected information from sources, including Actions with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and the Office for National Statistics, to create an index measuring levels of community cohesion and well-being within countryside communities. English.

They then focused on 284 parishes and studied the impact of pubs on community cohesion.

Prof Cabras said: “Overall, we found that pubs had a positive and statistically significant impact on social engagement and involvement of residents living in the countryside.

“We also found that this positive effect tripled between 2000 and 2010 – the period we looked at – perhaps because pubs became more and more important as other essential services such as post office and village shops have closed. “

The study comes as Northumberland’s only thatched-roof pub – which has been closed for several months – is back on the market.

The Black Bull at Etal was once part of a chain of pubs and is now on the market for rent as a free home.

Guy Sampson of Savills, based at Ford and Etal Estates, said: “The pub returned to Ford and Etal Estates just before Christmas.

“There are tourist companies on the estate, which alone attract a lot of visitors.

“The estate’s strategy is to continually support and nurture successful business ventures and, in a climate of rural pub closure, the estate is confident that the pub will be a business success.”

Analysis of the study found that parishes with a pub had more community events – such as sports matches, charity events, and social clubs – than those without or those with just gyms or clubs. village.

But figures released by the British Beer and Pubs Association in 2016 showed that there were around 50,800 pubs open in Britain, up from nearly 68,000 in 1982.

That’s a 25% drop as the UK population grew by 14% over the same period.

“When judged against the results of our study, it must be bad for the cohesion of the community,” said Professor Cabras.

“One way to help save these vital rural institutions would be to better identify and define ‘community pubs’. This would help legislate in favor of the pubs that are truly an asset to their community, and design policies to support these businesses, such as rate relief programs. “

Since 2012, Community Valuable Assets (LCA) / Community Purchasing Right legislation has given community groups six months to submit a case to keep an ad.

“However, if there is no such LCA or preservation order in place, it is still too easy for developers to buy and convert long established pub space. Stricter legislation would prevent unnecessary closures, ”said Professor Cabras.

Another major problem for rural pubs is the lack of infrastructure. Public transport is insufficient – especially at night – in many rural areas, hampering the chances of any business relying on the sale of alcohol.

Encouraging local taxi programs could increase the attractiveness of pubs and many other businesses that are geographically dispersed and poorly served by transport routes.

“Providing additional financial support by local authorities to new taxi companies would help keep fares low and encourage rural residents to use them more frequently. This would benefit all businesses, including pubs, operating in the local supply chain, ”said Prof Cabras.

“But while the government should support rural pubs, residents must also play their part. It’s really about using them or losing them.

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