A ONCE popular pub now struggling to make the books balance could close and be converted into a house.

The owners of the Rose and Crown, in Woodhill, Stoke St Gregory, have applied for permission for change of use of the buiding.

An application to Taunton Deane Borough Council says: "Trade at The Rose and Crown has been falling steadily in recent years and the viability of the business has now become marginal.

"The public house has been on the market since early 2014, but no offers have been received in that time.

"It is now necessary to find an alternative use for the building.

"The building will become a single dwelling and the terraces and car park will be altered to provide a garden and parking for residents."

It adds that the trend of pub closures in Taunton has seen "at least 26" go out of business since 1980.

The Rose and Crown, in line with many other pubs, has diversified to increase food sales

The statement says: "Current best practice advice for a full time complement of kitchen and waiting staff to be viable suggests that a minimum of around 60 covers should be available. The Rose and Crown operates below this figure at 45-50 covers."

Up until 2012, the pub supported two families and their children and employed three or four full-time staff in the kitchen and front of house as well as 15 to 20 part-time staff.

Since the beginning of 2016, there is now a single owner, only one full time member of staff and a small number of part-timers.

It used to be that the pub required five staff when open, but now uses only one per shift.

It is now common that the pub does not get any customers during some periods as there is no passing trade.

The statement adds: "Despite a number of marketing initiatives such as a leaflet drop, Facebook page and annual events, trade has dropped off considerably in the last few years and the owners have had to curtail the pub’s opening hours.

"One of the greatest challenges facing the business are the business rates which are £20,000 per annum or £385 per week.

"Two potentially interested buyers have already been put off by this amount.

"These rates are much higher than other pubs in the area, mostly notably The Royal Oak in Stoke St Gregory who pay £6,900 per annum.

The pub was originally marketed in 2014 on an asking price of £450,000, but that has since been reduced to £395,000.

The pub was rebuilt following a devastating fire in March 2008.