ONCE again The Queen public house, opposite St George's Hall in Bradford, has closed down, prompting those interested in pubs to wonder whether this familiar aspect of daily life has much of a future.

Nothing new in that; over the past 20 years or so time has been called on more than 170 pubs in the Bradford district. CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) estimates that 31 pubs are closing in the UK every week - that's five up on the figures the organisation had in January.

Earlier this week, the T&A featured a new CAMRA campaign to change the law. At the moment a pub can be demolished or converted to another use without planning permission.

In January this year the historic Cock and Bottle on Barkerend Road, an area which has seen much change in the past 50 years, was being reshaped for a change of use by its owner who wanted to turn the building into a restaurant. Now a For Sale sign is on the pub and a legal process is underway.

MPs from the parliamentary Save the Pub group are backing CAMRA's campaign. Chairman of the group, Greg Mulholland MP, said: "It is not right that pubs, so often the heart of a community, can be converted into supermarkets or offices without developers needing planning permission.

"It is now accepted that any new betting shops need to get planning permission, but why the blind spot when it comes to all the fundamental changes that lead to the loss of a pub or the establishment of a new supermarket?"

He cited predatory supermarkets snapping up valued local pubs and debt-ridden pub companies off-loading pubs in spite of local public opinion, as factors that Parliament needed to consider."

Bradford East Liberal-Democrat MP David Ward is fully behind the campaign to change the law. "Pubs are part of the fabric of local communities," he said.

In the village of Bamford, Derbyshire, villagers threatened with the closure of the only remaining pub, The Anglers rest, did more than get up a campaign of protest: 328 of them clubbed up and raised more than £300,000 to buy the place and run it.

Instead of being just the local boozer like The Bull in the fictional village of Ambridge in The Archers, the long-running BBC radio everyday story of country folk, it is now the village hub, a meeting place for young and old alike.

Being a hub rather than just a pub might not go down well with old soaks who don't like too much change; but it may be the way to go for some pubs. Earlier this year Wilsden's New Inn took part in a month-long CAMRA campaign to promote pubs as community-centred.

The pub ran a book-borrowing and lending scheme when the local library was under threat. Charity nights were hosted and coffee mornings and craft markets were put on.


New Inn manager and licensee Miguel Schreck told the T&A at the time: "You have listen to what people want and try to do your best to accommodate. If people come in and leave with a smile on their face, nine time out of ten they are going to come back."

A good pub should be a home from home, a meeting place giving people a sense of belonging, said William Wagstaff, whose three pubs include the New Beehive Inn at Westgate, Bradford, and Jacob's Beerhouse, formerly Jacob's Well.

Apart from creating a good atmosphere and running a welcoming place, there wasn't a formula. "Everywhere is different. In Leeds you've got lots of cafe-bars. They are very popular because the population go for that.

"In Bradford they're looking for cheapness because of the low economic community. From being a strong drinking city Bradford has gone to the other extreme of being a very difficult place," he added.

In spite of the closure of the police station in the Tyrls and the Central Library building in Prince's Way, Mr Wagstaff has made a go of Jacob's Beerhouse but admitted that he would be a "nervous wreck" if he depended on it for his living.

Adaptability may make a difference. For example, he's turned the The New Beehive Inn into a hotel with 17 rooms which, he said, are nearly always full with visitors, tourists and business people. And every month the New Beehive Poets host a Monday night poetry reading.