Prince calls on villagers to make 'the pub the hub'

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The Prince of Wales urged people yesterday to buy from local shops and businesses to help to save the countryside from crisis.

Warning that rural Britain faced continuing economic crisis and the threat of a new foot-and-mouth outbreak, he said people could help to rescue farmers and rural communities. He urged the adoption of a policy to "make the pub the hub" of village life by letting landlords provide more services. He said: "There was a time when the pub used to be at the heart of village life, but now 40 per cent of villages do not have one. At the same time, village stores and Post Offices are shutting at an alarming rate.

"So why not, I thought, make the 'Pub the Hub'. Put into the pub the Post Office and the store, and increase the income, so giving the pub itself a more secure future."

He urged business leaders to support local shops and services, saying: "Buy your food locally for your stores, for your restaurant, or for your canteen. And why not even buy your office furniture from local craftsmen?"

Launching his new campaign in St James's Palace, the prince challenged his Business in the Community team of company executives, set up to regenerate inner cities, to help the countryside as well.

He called for particular attention to be paid to market towns suffering inner-city problems of crime and drugs, and to providing affordable rural housing. "Together we can help to keep living communities and cultures surviving within our glorious countryside so that people born and bred there can find an economic future. The consequences if we fail are too awful to contemplate."

Ministers are reviewing the Government's rural strategy and Alun Michael, Minister of State for Rural Affairs, said it was channelling billions of pounds into the countryside.

Charles Secrett, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said the prince had articulated the "huge challenge" the Government faced over the rural economy. "We should not expect Government to be complacent about this and if they are ... it is all of our jobs to keep them on the mark," he said.