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East Anglia: Pub conversion rate continues to slow

PUBLISHED: 09:01 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:01 09 April 2014

Villagers in Friston are campaigning to prevent the conversion of the Old Chequers Inn.

Villagers in Friston are campaigning to prevent the conversion of the Old Chequers Inn.

More pubs in East Anglia are being retained for continued use rather than being converted into housing, according to new property figures.

Fleurets, the leisure property specialist, has announced that more than 65% of free houses sold in the east of England in 2013 were retained as pubs,marking the second successive year-on-year increase and an encouraging outlook for the industry.

The region also retained more pubs than the national average of 56%, according to the statistics.

A spokesman for Fleurets said: “We have continued to see a slow down in the conversion of public houses sold for alternative use, but the most common end uses haven’t changed a great deal over the last four years.”

The announcement follows further success stories in Suffolk, which bucked the national trend by welcoming more pub openings than closures over the same period.

Figures compiled by the Campaign for Real’s Suffolk and North Essex branch earlier this year showed that 19 pubs reopened in 2013 compared with the 17 that closed.

Community leaders in villages threatened with the loss of their last remaining pub, have welcomed the encouraging outlook, despite warning that much of the damage may have already been done.

Bryan Hall, a district councillor in Wickham Market, has seen the impact of pub closures on his community after the George Inn burned down a year ago.

“I think it’s probably like so many things in life – you won’t full appreciate it until it’s gone,” he said.

“Quite a few people in Wickham Market have expressed considerable concerns that they no longer have the same opportunities as they did to enjoy a meal and a quiet drink as they did before.”

Although Mr Hall believes there is a “growing awareness” of the importance of retaining pubs, he also questions whether the figures truly mark a turning point for the industry or merely reflect the fact that so many have already been sold for housing that the market has bottomed out.

However, with many villagers campaigning to save their pubs, Mr Hall also believes that landlords are becoming more encouraged about their chances for success.

In Friston, parish councillors and villagers have tried to prevent the sale of The Old Chequers Inn for housing, by submitting plans to register it as a “community asset”.

Acting parish chairman Frances Cardy has stressed the importance of retaining pubs in small rural villages. “You need a focal point in the village, particularly as small as ours, where we have nothing else,” she said.

“Its the only central point of contact – we have no shops, there’s no school, there’s nothing else.”

A spokesman for Fleurettes said: “We have continued to see a slow down in the conversion of public houses sold for alternative use, but the most common end uses haven’t changed a great deal over the last four years.”

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