THE statement by a judge that The Aclet in Bishop Auckland brings “no practical benefit” to the people it serves is an interesting turn of phrase.

Perhaps there is a strict legal definition of a “practical benefit” that the arguments of the 200-plus campaigners who fought to save the pub, as described in today’s Echo, did not fall within.

Perhaps that definition does not extend to the “practical benefit” of providing a social outlet for many frail, elderly customers who, as campaign spokesperson Sophie Hartfield told Judge Peter McCrea, might simply not go out without the pub.

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The Aclet’s owner, Marston’s Pubs Limited, argued successfully that it is not commercially viable and if the proposals to convert the premises into a convenience store were blocked, the building would be closed.

A Spar shop would provide a better community hub than a boarded up public house, said the company.

If those are the two options, then it’s obvious a shop is better than nothing. However surely there is a third option of keeping the pub open and seeing whether or not the £40,000 profit made last year could be transformed into a longer-term upturn in fortunes.

Pubs across the country in communities large, small, rural and urban have closed in swathes in recent years, and no-one expects owners to keep pouring money into loss making businesses.

But shouldn’t companies place more onus on the community value of a pub and the needs of loyal customers, many of whom would be left in crippling isolation by the removal of their only opportunity for social interaction?

In the case of The Aclet, where there has been such a strong campaign in its support, we would urge Marston’s to think again.