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Press release / Freshford pub launches campaign to save Bath’s historic pubs

Press release issued for the Inn at Freshford, a Somerset country pub outside Bath

A PUB landlord from Bath has launched a campaign calling on the council to protect the city’s endangered and historic hostelries.

Mark Birchall, the landlord of The Inn at Freshford, has become so fed up with the number of pubs in Bath being forced to call last orders for the final time, that he’s set up a petition and written to Bath & North East Somerset Council (BANES).

He’s demanding councillors draft new guidelines to help better protect the city’s historic public houses from developers – ensuring they can only close and be redeveloped for housing or offices if they are no longer used by the community.

Mr Birchall’s quest to safeguard the future of the city’s pubs follows the recent closure of The Packhorse Inn, in South Stoke.

He’s now encouraging local licensees to get behind his ‘Save Bath’s Historic Pubs’ campaign before they too face pulling their final pint.

“There are far too many opportunistic developers feeding off the temporary downturn in the pub trade,” said Mr Birchall, 40, who has worked behind bars in Bath all of his working life.

“I’d like to see city hall publically stand-up for its historic pubs, like the Packhorse Inn, and I hope publicans in the Bath area will support this campaign.

“In the early 1980s councils protected historic buildings through the listing process. I now think it’s time historic businesses such as pubs were given the same protection.

“If BANES doesn’t act now; by the time the recession is over some our most historic and community-based businesses could be lost forever.”

There are more than 100 pubs in Bath and the surrounding villages, but at least nine have closed since the Credit Crunch struck in 2007.

Mr Birchall’s call to action and petition has already been backed by several of his customers, the advocacy group Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and The Save Our Packhorse Group in neighbouring South Stoke.

Mr Birchall added: “The Inn at Freshford, has been serving people from the village and the Bath area since the 16th century and the way business is going for us I’m confident we’ll be pulling pints for another 500 years.

“We’re at the heart of our small community and living evidence there’s still a place for the ‘local’ if it’s run to its full potential.

“It’s soul destroying to see other popular pubs in the area boarded up or changed forever into housing or office space: this is how communities breakdown.

“I value healthy competition, so as far as I’m concerned, the more pubs in the area the merrier.”

New research from CAMRA suggests community pubs generate up to £120,000 a year of social value to their areas.

A House of Commons document published earlier this year, however, showed how almost 8,000 pubs had closed in the South West in the last decade. The figures include 7,745 in Somerset. Higher tax rates, competition from supermarkets and the smoking ban have all been blamed.

James Honey, Chair of CAMRA’s Bath & Borders Group, said: “We fully support The Inn at Freshford’s petition and campaign and I hope other landlords and their customers back it.

“Like The Inn at Freshford, we’d like to see the council publicly stand up for historic pubs and state how they intend to protect them.

“Pubs have an important role to play in the present and future of Bath.

“It would be a great loss for future generations if they were to disappear.”

For further information, on The Inn at Freshford’s petition, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bath/ or follow @InnatFreshford on Twitter.


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