Admittedly, not all of these pubs will be found in rural locations, but a boarded-up boozer in the countryside is a depressingly common sight. Time, ladies and gentlemen, last orders at the bar.
Soon, the only people left in the village will be Escape to the Country presenters, commercial property agents armed with ‘TO LET’ boards and Waze disciples on an alternative route home.
How can we inject new life into our rural villages? No, not a ‘guess the weight of a marrow‘ competition or a Strictly Come Maypole Dancing event. What every village in the country needs is an electric car charging point.
The government is dishing out grants for electric vehicle charging points like a car magazine gives out awards, so for parish councils it needn’t mean a choice between a dog poo bin for the village green or a charging point.
Under the Workplace Charging Scheme, public sector organisations can apply for up to £500 per socket at 75 percent of the total cost of installation, up to a maximum of 20 sockets.
Most urban dwellers are too busy staring into their smartphone in Costa to visit your village fete or tombola, but offer them an electric charging point and they’ll be pulling up outside the derelict Crown Inn faster than you can say: “Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, peanut-free and soya-free cappuccino to go, please.”
A Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee document published last year missed the point of the charging network’s role in reshaping village life. It said: “Rural areas are expected to be critical to the alleviation of so-called ‘range anxiety’, since they are home to the majority of motorway service areas, where rapid charge points would provide drivers with a means to refuel and complete long journeys.”
With all due respect, or whatever it is people say in parliament when they’re about to disagree with something, there’s more to rural regions than motorway service areas.
It wouldn’t take a lot to tempt EV drivers away from a motorway services. Instead of tasteless fried food and coffees that cost a small mortgage payment, they could be enjoying the warm embrace of country folk.
With a steady influx of range-poor and time-rich EV drivers, you can tear down the Heras fencing that surrounds the pub and turn it into a community shop. Electric car drivers are accustomed to spending inflated prices for food and drink, so you’ll be earning cash faster than the Pimm’s tent at last summer’s village fete.
In next to no time you’ll have enough spare money to remove the Japanese knotweed from the duck pond, replace the roof on the parish church and send your parish councillors to that obscure village you’re twinned with in Normandy.
Admittedly, you’ll need to find a way to disguise the charging unit. Most are as aesthetically pleasing as pebbledash on a Georgian townhouse, so maybe one could sit in the disused telephone box.
It’s a win-win situation. The electric car driver gets access to a greater number of charging points, the village welcomes more visitors since the time the National Express coach took a wrong turning off the bypass, and the government gets a glimmer of hope that it might achieve its emissions targets.
Parish councillors, stick the erection of electric charging points on your next agenda. It’ll make a change from discussing late bin collections, dog waste in the sports field and who should clean the public toilets.