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How to… buy the local pub

The chances are that most of us have dreamt at some point of owning a pub.

Quite apart from the obvious benefits of being surrounded by good ale and food, running a pub also offers the opportunity to be a hub for the community and a focal point for local life.

But the humble village pub is an endangered species. Figures from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) suggest more 28,000 pubs have closed in this country since the 1970s, when there were around 75,000 pubs in Britain.

There are many reasons for why many of our local pubs have called time, including the growing market for cheap beer in supermarkets, and while many local areas no long have a pub to call their own, some are fighting back and using community share offers to keep them open.

The latest community group to launch such a share offer is Ashton Hayes in Cheshire, which is looking to raise a minimum of £250,000 to buy and reopen the Golden Lion, which has been closed for the last five years.

Ashton Hayes already has a village community shop and a community benefit society has now been formed to raise the finance for the Golden Lion.

‘This is the only pub in Ashton Hayes and it has an outstanding track record going back many years,’ says committee chairman, Hugo Deynem.

‘Because it has always been a highly-valued institution, it was one of the very first to be listed as an asset of community value under the localism act 2012,’ he adds.

In January 2013, the pub ceased trading and since then the owner tried without success to obtain planning permission to redevelop the pub and site for residential dwellings. The planning applications were strongly opposed by the local community, parish council and the borough council.

‘We are a community want our treasured Golden Lion back open and serving its community once again, said Mr Deynem.

There are at least 50 community-owned pubs and micro-breweries in the UK, along with 65-community owned shops.

The largest community-owned pub is the Bell Inn in Bath, where members have invested more than £750,000 since 2013.

Speaking to New Start, the Golden Lion project’s fundraising lead Kate Harrison said the empty pub sits in the centre of the village and the building is in a ‘pretty poor condition’.

‘It’s not very welcoming when people drive up and see a semi-derelict pub,’ adds Ms Harrison. ‘We do know that it puts people off moving to the village,

‘But people are fighting back. I’m in touch with people all over the country who are trying to save or retain their pub and people are not going down without a fight.’

Ms Harrison adds the Golden Lion project has received a lot of help from the Plunkett Foundation, which helps rural communities and has been ‘extremely helpful and given us good advice’.

She said any groups in a similar situation should first ask themselves if a community pub is what the locals want.

‘The first thing is go round and ask people for their opinions,’ she adds.  ‘It’s not something you can do on your own. You need a good group of people who are working towards the same goal.

‘There are some places where people are working away on these projects and they have forgotten to ask if it’s what the community is looking for.’

She also recommends getting advice from professional organisations like the Plunkett Foundation at the earliest opportunity and get local people on board ‘as quickly as you can’.

In terms of the share offer itself, the group’s treasurer, David Wilson, adds: ‘A share offer like this helps to ensure the project is a truly local enterprise, serving and benefitting the community, while remaining accountable to it.

‘This is now an exercise to generate large projects for the members,’ says Mr Wilson. ‘The primary return on your investment will be the existence of a convivial, welcoming village pub and hub.

‘That said, we aim to pay 3% interest payment in later years. We’ve already got lots of ideas, but if you become a shareholder it will be your pub too and you can help us decide how money is spent and how its developed and run.’

  • For more information, visit the Golden Lion’s community share offer website

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