Pints Pies And Postal Orders

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A scheme to help rural Cornish pubs to branch out into new services was launched yesterday at The Cornish Arms in St Merryn, near Padstow.

Pub is The Hub launched its Local Community Services Champions initiative to a packed meeting of over 60 people, showcasing advice, support and, if appropriate, funding for pub operators and owners who are considering a diversification scheme. Examples include providing post offices, shops, libraries, internet cafes, allotment schemes, school dinners, lunch clubs for the elderly, cash point machines, IT training and meeting rooms.

Pub is The Hub, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2001 by HRH the Prince of Wales, encourages local authorities, communities, licensees, pub owners and breweries to work together to support, retain and locate services within rural pubs. Pub is The Hub assists with guidance on availability of project funding, and having a thorough understanding of the pub business, is able to advise on the best way to progress with each individual project.

The scheme in Cornwall is being backed by Cornwall Rural Community Council, Volunteer Cornwall, Age UK and the Big Lottery Fund, with help from St Austell Brewery. Other guests at the meeting represented DEFRA, Cornwall Community Foundation and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

One of the speakers included Bob Semple, the licensee from The Tree Inn at Stratton near Bude, who opened a post office at his pub in March 2009 following the closure of the village post office six months earlier. With backing from his bank he was able to provide this vital service from the pub every morning, six days a week. He said: “The goodwill that we generated from the scheme was terrific. Although hard to measure in monetary terms – the post office breaks even – the rewards have been unexpected with people who had used the post office and have since been back for a pub meal. We really feel as though we’re right in the heart of the community.” Paul Joyce from the St Germans Community Shop at the Eliot Arms echoed Bob’s sentiments and explained that their shop was now making a decent profit which was being ploughed back into other community schemes in the village.

Nigel Clark, who spoke for Age UK in Cornwall, explained that pubs can play a vital role for vulnerable people over 50 who can often become isolated in rural communities when their partner dies. Peter Jefferson, Chief Executive of Cornwall Rural Community Council presented a series of ‘quick win’ examples that pubs could employ to support their communities such as ‘lunch in a bag’ schemes for disabled or elderly residents and their carers, a prescriptions collection service, internet shopping point and providing a space for local suppliers of crafts to sell their wares. He said that his organisation would guide anyone interested through the maze of applications forms to complete for funding.

John Longden, Chief Executive from Pub is The Hub added: “We’d love to speak to any good licensees in Cornwall who are considering the option of diversification – and even those who have never thought of it before. We are ideally placed to advise on ideas, funding and carrying what we aim to be around 30 projects through to completion.  “We are very grateful to Jill Stein and the team at The Cornish Arms for kindly hosting our event and to Adam Luck and his team at St Austell Brewery for their continuing support.”

Jill Stein, who attended the event, commented: “Since we took over The Cornish Arms in 2009, it’s been so important to us to get involved with our local community by supporting local live music, community events and fundraising for people in the surrounding area. Local pubs are at the heart of our local communities and it’s great to be a part of that.”

Anyone who would like to know more about the scheme in Cornwall can go visit Community Champions or telephone 01423 546165 for more information.