Wednesday 18 May 2011

Locals' launch campaign to save historic pub

Save the Cherry Tree

The Cherry Tree pub in Tintern, Monmouthshire, has been closed since just before Christmas, but the owners have just now put in planning permission for a residential conversion. Naturally the locals do not want to see this happen and have started a campaign to save the pub. I suggest popping over to their website to see why they want to keep their pub. 

I've even filmed in the pub with ITV Wales in the past 

I've copied and pasted the following paragraphs from the save the pub website: 

The Cherry - a failing pub!?

Through the mid-noughties The Cherry was undeniably a thriving establishment. Unfortunately a degree of animosity has developed in recent years between the current owners and many in the village. We refuse to editorialise on these matters however it is of great significance to our case that the management have not enjoyed the support of the majority in Tintern since 2008/9.

Having said that, the extensive string of vehicles parked every Sunday along the road outside revealed the extent to which the pub's reputation still pulled in a reliable trade from outside the village to supplement the hardcore of locals who chose to focus on the venue rather than controversies concerning the hosts.

The pub was by no means failing. Not providing sufficient income for its self-proclaimed 'debt-ridden' owners in a recessionary climate after losing much of its local trade? - maybe. Failing to the extent that we and future generations should be deprived of its hospitality in order to alleviate short-term financial difficulties? - definitely not!
Attempts to sell the Pub as a going-concern have been.. well ..rather lacklustre.

Sadly, pubs are generally worth more as flat-fodder than the life-enhancing centres of social cohesion that we believe them to be. Fortunately, this is recognised by local planning authorities who insist on evidence of a serious attempt to sell a 'failing' pub as a business and at a fair market price.

We have found no evidence to suggest that The Cherry has been appropriately marketed as a going concern. We know that the pub was on the market as a commercial property with a local estate agent but bizarrely seems to have been taken off the market at some time before the abandonment of the pub on 06/12/2010.

We can find no evidence that the pub has been advertised through standard trade publications such as The Morning Advertiser or The Publican. Although anecdotal, we believe it to be extremely telling the fact that another local publican, a regular reader of the trade magazines, was in December 2010 unaware that the pub had even been on the market.
Editors Note: As someone who follows the property sections of the trade magazines as well as visiting pub auctions I was not aware the pub was, or had been up for sale.

We suspect the £400,000 asking price to be excessive and are convinced that a more focussed advertising approach, together with a willingness to negotiate a realistic sale price in the current economic climate could lead to a relatively straightforward change of ownership of this famous pub.

As an aside, if you think you might be interested in buying and running the Cherry - please get in touch. We'd be delighted to hear from you and would do everything in our powers to facilitate negotiations with the current owners.
The Cherry is unique and of national importance

It is rather depressing to think that The Cherry has now lost its perennial status as a much celebrated CAMRA 'Good Beer Guide' entry. Our pub had been the only pub in Wales to have appeared in every edition of the guide since its inception in 1974 and, in 2008, was described by CAMRA as a 'superpub' being one of only 10 pubs across England and Wales to have achieved membership of this elite club.

Of course what really marks out a special local is not national recognition but something rather more intangible: its 'spirit'. The Cherry does atmosphere, history and location in spades. Surrounded by ancient woodland, next to a babbling brook in a quiet Monmouthshire valley; there is no finer place to delight in a beautifully crafter local ale or cider.

Untapped/discarded business opportunities:

A few years ago The Cherry was not a pub: it was a pub/village shop/Post Office/B&B. There probably wasn't much that could be done to save the Post Office when the unpopular 'restructuring' of the service took place a few years ago but we are not convinced that the demise of the shop and B&B business were quite so inevitable.

Officially The Cherry did not stop providing B&B facilities but a growing reluctance to accept bookings in recent years has been quite evident. The number of annual visitors drawn to Tintern by its ancient Cistercian abbey alone has been estimated at 500,000. The Cherry has four rooms available, is situated some 800 meters from the Abbey and thus ideally positioned to benefit from the provision of year round accommodation in a tourist village with surprisingly few B&B options. Few, if any, B&B bookings were accepted by The Cherry in 2010.

The permanent population of Tintern is about 750 and the transient population is far greater yet the village is without a shop selling anything other than the most basic commodities such as newspapers. Even without the financial crutch of Post Office status, it seems to us that the reopening of a carefully managed village shop in the basement of The Cherry is a viable proposition.

Tourist attractions such as the Abbey aside, The Lower Wye Valley is an extremely popular destination for outdoor pursuits enthusiasts. And we believe that a large untapped market exists to provide food/drink/accommodation to visitors drawn to Tintern by its spectacular local natural resources.

Some of the most important rock climbing destinations in Southern Britain lie within a five mile radius of Tintern, two long distance footpaths pass either through or close to the village, The River Wye is a Mecca for canoeists and thousands of Land's End/John o' Groats cyclists pass through the village every year. No attempt has been made to engage with these potential markets via targeted advertising though specialist magazines and websites.

The newly designated Lower Wireworks Car park is situated approximately 200 meters from the pub. The car park has been designed to accommodate in excess of 40 cars, is free to use and is signposted from the main A466 road passing through the village. This will surely bring more visitors into The Angiddy valley and almost to the doorstep of The Cherry. It is also worth noting that if the proposed Chepstow - Tintern shared-use path is built then the Lower Wireworks car park will be a principal access point and there is scope for the provision of tailored services (walkers/cyclists lunch deals, spare inner-tubes, lockable bike stands etc.) to encourage path users to visit the pub.

The issue of signage in Tintern has been somewhat contentious over the years. For those interested in some of the ugly details - Google is your friend. Being rather tucked away and slightly off the beaten tourist path, a well considered sign on the main road alerting passing trade to the existence of a lovely little pub a few hundred yards up the Angiddy valley would no doubt give The Cherry a great boost. In 2005 planning permission was sought for such a sign (MCC planning application M11879). It seems that on 27/8/09 a decision on this application had still not been reached and its current status is not known. However it seems reasonable to assume that reopened negotiations with the council on the matter could result in a solution to the satisfaction of all.
Editor's Note: the signage that was removed from the main road by Monmouthshire County Council featured the Hancock's Toastmaster and was well over 40 years old, the trademark being used up to the late 1960s when Hancocks were taken over by Bass.
 According to a civil engineer I know if the sign was up before 1st April 1974 then it has deemed consent under the Town & Country Planning Act (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992 Class 13. Monmouthshire council clearly acted illegally in removing that sign.
What to do:
1.Send an email to Monmouthshire County Council Planning department informing them of your feelings on the proposals: Quote reference DC/2011/00356.

To see the plans before commenting on them visit UK Planning, click 'Search Applications' and enter application number DC/2011/00356

2.Tell your friends to do the same! Post on Facebook. Spread the word.

We've lost enough good pubs in Monmouthshire, it's time to say no to pub closures!


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