PUBS in Wyre Forest continue to face the threat of sale or closure despite figures showing they pump nearly £50 million annually into the district’s economy.
Campaigners say a number of pubs within Wyre Forest are up for sale, including the Cricketer’s Arms and Corn Exchange in Kidderminster, and the Black Boy, Wyre Hill, Bewdley.
In addition The Shuttle has learned supermarket giant Tesco is planning to replace the Squirrel Inn in Areley Kings with an Express store and are looking at similar plans for the Angel Inn in Bewdley.
A report commissioned by the British Beer and Pub Association revealed more than 1,600 people are employed across Wyre Forest in 102 pubs and two breweries. The value of goods and services they produce each year is £47.5 million.
Nick Yarwood, chairman of Kidderminster Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: “Pubs play an important role in boosting the local economy. Apart from providing a valuable community service they also employ people locally. We are concerned and need Wyre Forest District Council to use its powers to assist in finding ways to keep them open.”
Residents in Areley Kings have started a ‘No to Tesco in Areley Common’ facebook group following the Squirrel Inn threat, and local business owners are worried the supermarket chain could drive them out. Mandy Jones, who runs the Marston’s-owned Black Boy with daughter Rebecca, said: “The pub here is more than a pub. There are people sitting in offices looking at pubs saying this will make us money – they do not realise what it is to a community.”
She added: “Something needs to be done to stop these pub companies treating landlords like they do not matter.”
A Marston’s spokesman said that nationally it was disposing of pubs “giving our shareholders poor returns” as part of new-build plans, adding: “There are some smaller pubs we do intend to sell. However, there are a number of pubs we have invested in significantly including the Watermill and Land Oak in Kidderminster.”
CAMRA is lobbying the Government to revive plans for a pubs watchdog, which would ensure a balance of power between large pub companies and their licensees. Mr Yarwood added the district council should “respond positively” to applications to register an asset of community value – which would give groups six months to raise finances and come up with a plan to bid for pubs if they are put up for sale.
District council leader, Conservative councillor John Campion, told The Shuttle there could not be a “blanket policy” for applications but added: “We fully recognise local shops and pubs do tend to be a focus for a community and, as such, do all that we can to support their operation.”