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Byline: Robert Sutcliffe

IT was news that had drinkers at the Great British Beer Festival in London crying into their beer.

This week real ale group Camra released figures which showed that the rate at which British pubs are closing down had increased to 31 a week.

OK, there are still more than 50,000 pubs left in the country but for those who love their locals it is a worrying trend.

Now campaigners want a change in the law to make it harder for pubs to be demolished or converted into supermarkets, estate agents and a range of other uses.

This is precisely what happened to The Grey Horse at Birchencliffe which had served the community going back to the 1930s and beyond.

It was in desperate need of renovation and investment but instead it got pulled down and is set to become a Tesco convenience store, opening its doors in early October.

I think Camra is wasting its time on this one. The truth is that good pubs survive and poor ones do not.

Anyone who visits somewhere like The Nags Head, a glorious picture postcard pub and carvery at Ainley Top on a summer's day will not fear for its future.

Or say The Croppers at Marsh or The Spinks Nest in Birkby where on one day last summer staff ran out of glasses so great was the thirst.

All these pubs have a dedicated following and management that keeps standards high.

It's not easy. In fact, it's very hard work as anyone who has seen the long hours put in by Croppers landlord Nigel Saxton over more than two decades will attest.

Sixteen years ago he needed four members of staff just to serve behind the bar on a Wednesday night. Those days are long gone.

But the quiz on a Tuesday night has proved a popular innovation and has attracted drinkers from as far away as Outlane. Good food, amusing regulars, entertaining bar staff and tip top ale help too.

Camra would be better off facing the reality that many of the pubs that shut simply do not cut the mustard and are not long mourned.

I am old enough to "Camra that many the mustard remember The Terrace and The Three Horseshoes in Birkby, both of which are no more. The first was subsumed into a convenience store and the second is now an Asian restaurant.

I had a soft spot for The Terrace, much less so for The Three Horseshoes, but it would take a fairly blinkered view of life to suggest that anyone's life has been seriously impoverished by their demise.

Camra is taking the easy option by blaming alleged gaps in the planning laws or whining about the tax on beer. It would be better off coming up with imaginative reasons as to how landlords can attract punters and develop their facilities.

This country is enjoying a massive real ale revival with dozens of new beers being brewed and an endless stream of beer festivals. If you cannot capitalise on all that it is a poor do.

What could be more of a retrograde step than to demand special pleading? Why should failing pubs have a divine right to exist regardless of demand? Returning to the Great British Beer Festival I remember visiting it several years ago with my then girlfriend 'Mrs Lynn',' one of my best friends, 'Town Hall' Kev from Doncaster and his elderly mother, Mary. Now Kevin is a man who enjoys a somewhat leisurely approach to life.

So first of all we stopped off in Covent Garden for a long lunch at Joe Allens, in those days something of a legendary restaurant. Eventually, we made it to Olympia by which time we were so late that it had all but closed up.

A long way to go for half a pint of Greene King IPA.

" Camra would be better off facing the reality that many of the pubs that shut simply do not cut the mustard and are not long mourned."


The Tesco Express which replaced landmark pub the Black Bull on Huddersfield Road, Mirfield, despite opposition from local shops

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 16, 2014
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