Grants should be given to save pubs - councillor

The Ship at Banwell.

The Ship at Banwell. - Credit: Archant

PUBS should double-up as shops and post offices in return for financial support, according to a North Somerset councillor.

The Raglan Arms, Weston.

The Raglan Arms, Weston. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Mike Bell believes pubs should ‘diversify’ and become home to threatened community facilities to help keep variety in high streets.

The former Bell Inn site in Congresbury has since been converted into homes.

The former Bell Inn site in Congresbury has since been converted into homes. - Credit: Archant

He wants the authority to do more to help the pub industry, worth an estimated £35million a year to Weston, mirroring the work Essex County Council does. It offers 50 per cent grants to any capital investment worth up to £5,000.

Cllr Mike Bell

Cllr Mike Bell - Credit: Archant

Cllr Bell, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “It is important we work hard to save our local pubs.

“We’ve seen in Weston how important pubs can be to the local community with the campaign to save the Bristol House.

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“I believe there are a few simple steps we could take to really help these community assets.

“We need to freeze the beer tax, support our brewers and give small grants to pubs to house community facilities.

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“By giving community pubs a small grant, we can help them diversify and bring back vital community services.”

With almost 2,000 jobs, nearly 100 pubs and big-name brewers in Thatchers and Butcombe in North Somerset, the industry is key to the region’s economic profile.

The Campaign For Real Ale society estimates two pubs close nationally every day with the Bell Inn in Congresbury, the Ship in Banwell and The Raglan Arms in Weston just three local examples in recent years.

Phil Bennett reopened The New Market three years ago and said any financial support for pubs in the area would be welcome.

He said: “The High Street looks tired at the moment. If you aren’t careful you’ll just end up with coffee shops and charity shops.”

The pub, in High Street, benefits from passing trade from The Playhouse but otherwise Mr Bennett admits business can be slow.

He added: “Anything at the moment is a good idea especially this side of town.

“Midweek can be very, very quiet. Even in the summer it doesn’t pick up because if it is really nice, people head to the beach.

“More needs to be done, through groups like BID, to send people around the various parts of town.”

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