A report predicting the demise of community life in British villages was published last week ... but in Thornton Hough residents feel they are bucking the trend. Matt Hurst reports
THE recession and a lack of affordable housing is “ripping the heart out of community life”, a report concluded last week.
The Rural Shops Alliance (RSA) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) say around 33 village shops and 54 country pubs could go out of business each month over the next year.
The two organisations add that, nationwide, 1,200 rural shops already closed in the last two years, and 600 pubs shut their doors for the final time since 2008 alone.
But in Thornton Hough, staff at the Seven Stars pub say it’s been one of their best summers in years.
Barman Phil Town told the News: “It’s been a really good summer, with the good weather people come out.”
And regular patron, Gwen Whalley thinks pubs like the Seven Stars can attract people from outside village life by offering good food, as well as the cosy, friendly atmosphere synonymous with rural hostelries.
Gwen said: “I think it’s mostly down-town pubs that are closing because of the smoking ban.
“I live by the canal in Oxton but I come all the way out here because I like the company.”
The RSA and BBPA says a big factor in the demise of rural villages is the lack of affordable housing, creating problems for young families and for businesses looking for employees.
But estate agents David Bradshaw and Karl Tatler both feel these concerns impact Wirral less.
David Bradshaw, of Jones and Chapman’s Heswall office, said: “There are still affordable houses in these areas, but you’ve got to look for them.
“These locations are good areas, sought after areas and they’re definitely not affected so much.”
Karl Tatler, who has offices in Heswall, Greasby and West Kirby, believes “there’s a lot of affordable housing”.
He said: “Thornton Hough is a fringe village.
“It may not have the local amenities a town would have but it is a short commute to places like the hospital or the nearest town.
“I don’t think anywhere in Wirral is sufficiently detached from modern facilities.”
It’s a point emphasised by barman, Phil Town, who travels from his Neston home to work at the Seven Stars.
Phil said: “The benefit of Wirral is we can be 20 minutes from Liverpool and 20 minutes from Chester and then half-an-hour from North Wales and the countryside.”
But life-long Thornton Hough resident, Dave Jones feels there could be future problems as the village’s unusual provenance means many properties are only available for rent.
Dave said: “There aren’t many private houses for sale and if they are, they’re very expensive.
“In the village itself, they are mostly rented and there also aren’t a great deal of young families.”
One person improving those facilities is Karen Jones, who set up a shop and cafe selling locally produced fruit, vegetables, cake and bread in the village hall.
Hall manager Karen said: “This has only been running for twelve months, after we secured some funding we had applied for, and it’s part of an idea to involve local farmers and their produce.
“It’s available to people because we don’t really have a shop in the village that could supply this produce.
“We have quite a lot of elderly here and it’s just something that’s there locally for them.
“If somebody has no transport or no-one to rely on, then it’s all here for them.
“We’ve got a local bakery for bread and cakes and a local farm producing fruit and veg.
“It’s very important for somewhere like here.”
And according to Karen a key component is the local paper.
She said: “People appreciate having the News, they can come in here and collect it
“It’s nice to have some sort of read, a free read, that tells you what’s going on locally.”
In response to the report, a Communities and Local Government spokesman said plans were in place to provide 10,000 new rural homes over the next three years.