A PUB near Whitchurch has come up with an innovative way to increase the number of punters it can accommodate under social distancing rules – by building four sheds in its beer garden.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that pubs in England will be allowed to reopen from July 6 provided coronavirus-related safety measures are in place.

The White Lion Inn in Ash Magna has applied for planning permission from Shropshire Council to put up the temporary ‘Lion's Dens’, which will have waiter service and be sprayed with disinfectant between bookings.

The pub, which was saved from closure two years ago when more than 170 residents rallied to raise over £220,000 to buy it, says the move is necessary in order for it to remain open and viable in the uncertain months ahead.

A supporting statement submitted alongside the planning application says: “The loss of the pub as a social hub for the village during lockdown has been notable and feedback is that members of the community want the pub to open as soon as it is allowed and safe to do so.

“As a small venue we have identified that, to be able to maintain social distancing while still welcoming customers, we will need to increase capacity.

“We therefore plan to install four garden sheds or similar structures adjacent to and facing into the pub garden.

“These sheds will be bookable by families and groups able to socialise together.”

The sheds, which are to be grant-funded and built by volunteers, will have lighting and heating in anticipation of social distancing measures extending into the winter months.

Customers who have booked one of the sheds will need to use the toilet facilities inside the pub, with a one-way system in operation.

The statement adds: “The sheds will also help to ensure that the White Lion can continue to operate as a community hub, helping to secure its future.

“Unless we increase capacity to cope with the Covid-19 restrictions we will not be able to accommodate the customer numbers needed to remain open/viable.

“As the pub was saved by the community just two years ago and is owned by the community, in perpetuity, the risk of its loss due to the impact of the pandemic would have a significant and detrimental impact on the community through removing a very important social hub that helps contribute to the physical, mental and economic health of the community.”

The planning application will be decided by Shropshire Council.

The pub has been closed since the start of the lockdown, operating only a take-away service.