A VILLAGE is split down the middle by a bid to turn one of its pubs into two houses.

One one side are owners Stephen and Jill Pocock and their supporters who say keeping The Cherry Tree Inn on the outskirts of Tintern as a pub is not economically viable and want to change its use.

On the other are a group of residents and the real ale organisation Camra, who say the pub is vital to the community of the nearby Angiddy Valley and should be sold to someone who will re-open it.

The ‘Save The Cherry’ campaign was launched inMay following the closure of pub in Forge Road in December, after an application by its owners to turn the building into two homes was lodged with Monmouthshire council.

The Friends of the Cherry Tree say the ‘top bar’ in the pub has served the community for 400 years and want it to re-open under new ownership as a community free house.

But Mr and Mrs Pocock, both 49, who bought the pub in 2000 say they have struggled to keep the business going financially for several years and failed to find a buyer since the pub was put up for sale in 2004.

They reduced the initial asking price from £560,000 to £400,000.

The couple also ran the village shop and post office from the premises for two years but closed both after the Post Office axed the sub office.

He said the lack of passing trade, not being able to have approved signage on the A466 main road, the number of other drinking establishments (there are seven) in Tintern, and ill-health all contributed to his decision to close the pub.

“Only a minority of people used the pub and we were running at a loss,” he said.

“What we needed was regular customers. We love the pub and have tried every which way to make it work and did our best to keep it going but haven’t had the support fromour neighbours and locals. We haven’t made a profit in nine years.”

Around 50 letters campaigning to keep the building as a pub and 15 supporting its closure were lodged with Monmouthshire council.

Paul Christie, local resident and member of the Save The Cherry Tree Inn said: “The Cherry Tree is my local pub and I am utterly opposed to its proposed change of use. The pub is historic, of national importance and greatly valued by both its regulars from the Angiddy Valley and visitors from the outside the area.”

The group claims the pub was not ‘failing’ and remained well-used until its closure.

The application is due to be discussed by planners at Monmouthshire council on Tuesday, when the planning officer will recommend refusal on the grounds it would lead to the loss of a community facility for which there is no convenient alternative and believes that realistic sale price might attract a new publican.

Publicans’ sympathy

LOCAL publicans are sympathetic to the Pococks’ situation.

David Stafford of The Rose and Crown public house said: “There are too many pubs and not enough revenue to keep them going. We are all suffering. I’ve been in the trade more than 30 years and unfortunately it’s the climate we are in.”

But Gary Wild, of The Anchor pub in Tintern, said it would be a loss to the village if the building was allowed to become a home. “It’s a pity the pub has closed as it has a lot of history,” he said.

‘Loss would impact on community’

THE Gwent branch of CAMRA, the campaign for real ale, said a clear demand still exists for the pub as a community resource and that its loss will have a permanent negative impact on the community in the Angiddy Valley.

It accepts the business is no longer viable for the Pococks but is convinced that if it is marketed at the right price, under new ownership it can be successful once more.

The Cherry Tree has featured in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide for 35 consecutive years.