Norwich candidate backs Evening News Love Your Local campaign

David BaleThe Conservative candidate for Norwich North praised the role pubs play in the community and backed The Evening News' Love Your Local campaign when she visited a watering role.David Bale

The Conservative candidate for Norwich North praised the role pubs play in the community and backed The Evening News' Love Your Local campaign when she visited a watering hole.

Chloe Smith dropped into the Heartsease pub to meet elderly people enjoying themselves playing games and socialising, thanks to the goodwill of the landlady.

The pub charges just �5 for elderly members of the community to enjoy tea and coffee and play scrabble, cribbage and other games in a warm environment alongside friends.

Ms Smith said it was an example of what pubs offered to the community as well as food and drink.

She said: "I have always been a supporter of the Evening News' Love Your Local campaign. I think it's brilliant that a local paper goes out to local pubs looking for great stories. Today you have come out to a pub in the community that has had tough times in the past to see what is going on.

"I think it's important to support local pubs in the community. If and when they close, communities lose a great place where they can get together. It's like rural post offices or shops being lost in the community.

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"This pub offers a fantastic service for the elderly who come here once a month to meet friends and get-together. Elderly people don't deserve to be shut away, and it's wonderful to see local people enjoying themselves in a local pub."

Ms Smith, whose local pub is the Coach and Horses in Thorpe Road, Norwich, and whose favourite tipple is a half of lager, said pubs needed help after being hit by very high business rates, the effects of the recession and supermarkets selling booze for cheap prices.

Several of the elderly people at the pub came from the Marion Road Day Centre in Thorpe Hamlet, which is a home from home for up to 20 elderly people daily.

Rita Cushion, the day centre's administrator, said: "We come to the Heartsease on the third Tuesday every month and spend a couple of hours here playing games and chatting to each other. It's somewhere where the people can come to and enjoy themselves."

Peggy Dunstan, 76, from the Heartsease estate, attends the day centre and said meeting at the pub was a chance to enjoy themselves and have a laugh.

"If we did not have this pub to go to, I don't know where else we could meet," she said. "We have a nice afternoon and a laugh."

Pub landlady Michaela Woodland said: "We were approached by Age Concern and they wanted somewhere they could hold a community event once a month for elderly people in the area, so they can socialise.

"The police have already come and spoken to elderly people about security, and it's a chance for people to interact with one other. Some pubs focus too much on attracting young people, but elderly people can take advantage of the facilities as well."

The Evening News' Love Your Local Campaign aims to get punters back into pubs or risk them losing for good.

� For more stories about the campaign visit loveyourlocal.

� Have you got a pubs story for the Evening News campaign? Call David Bale on 01603 772427.

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