A COMMUNITY-owned public house which has been trading for 300 years faces closure unless it can fit solar panels on its roof to help meet the soaring cost of electricity, Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has been told.

The council heard solar panels would generate up to 30 per cent of energy needed by the New Inn, Halse, where electricity bills had risen four-fold.

The New Inn, said to have traded continuously since the 1700s, was saved from closure three years ago during the Covid-19 pandemic when nearly 200 local people took shares in a community benefit society to buy the premises.

Mike Davis, of Halse and District Community Benefit Society, said: “We now face energy costs that have gone up four-fold and we face crippling losses.

“If we cannot install the panels we will have to shut the pub as it will not be viable, even with the sales growth we are experiencing.”

Mr Davis said the New Inn now employed 14 full and part-time staff, supported two Ukrainian refugees, and was a base for 28 clubs and societies.

He said: “We have achieved our goals in becoming an important part of the local community.”

Now, Mr Davis has applied to SWT for planning permission for the roof mounted solar panels, which he said would have a minimal impact on the village conservation area and could only be seen from one angle.

SWT is holding public consultation on the plans until March 17 and has set itself a target date of April 18 to determine the application.

Halse villagers have been asked to offer £500 loans to cover the £21,000 cost of the solar panels with their money secured against the property.

Energy bills this year for the pub have been estimated to increase to about £36,000, rising to £48,000 when gas was added.