Cheers as villagers buy pub

Cheers raised the roof of the village hall on Sunday afternoon when a residents' meeting heard the news that they had succeeded in buying their local pub.

Villagers have saved their pub by buying it - the Duke of Wellington at Leasingham. EMN-181206-124645001

A bid was put in last week for the Duke of Wellington by the Leasingham Community Benefit Society, which was formed to raise enough cash through selling shares to save their only pub after the premises was put up for sale.

Frances Franklin, one of the organisers, said: “We wanted to inform everyone together. We were one of four offers and there were definitely two developers in the running. Although they could not have changed the use of the pub in the first year, they could have sold off the land for houses or boarded it up and applied for planning permission to change it later.

“There were tears of joy, a huge ovation and lots of thanks when we made the announcement,” she said.

She added: “On March 11 we didn’t have a single penny, but on June 10 our offer was accepted having raised the £210,000 we needed in three months to unlock a £100,000 grant and loan from the Plunkett Foundation. For a little village that is phenomenal. Cranwell has got on board and supported us and we have had shares bought by supporters in Australia, the USA and Netherlands as they felt strongly about keeping the pub.”

There now needs to be discussions with solicitors to finalise matters and the pub will continue operating but the villagers should have the keys within two months.

A management committee will be formed to find and appoint a landlord who will run the pub according to the ethos and goals set out by the villagers in a survey in January. The pub comes with a three-bedroom flat for the right candidate.

Mrs Franklin said: “The importance of getting the right landlord we cannot overstate as they will have day-to-day control. What was obvious was that people did not want a gourmet restaurant with minimum drinking facilties.

“They wanted a village pub that served pub food but also mums could drop in after visiting school and there was somewhere for clubs.”

There will be an AGM of the Community Benefit Society for everyone to have an input and then that will legally have to disband. She said they had only been able to sell shares at first to demonstrate public demand

They are still hoping to sell more shares and fundraise to carry out refurbishments to a satisfactory standard.

Mrs Franklin said: “There is no kitchen, the toilets are in quite a bad state and we need to renew garden furniture. We want to refurbish it to be a welcoming place for everyone.”