First community-owned pub in West Sussex set to open after £300,000 campaign

A much-loved pub in the heart of a Sussex village will officially open under community ownership on 23 January following an eight-month long campaign by locals to save it.

The Half Moon Inn at Balcombe was put up for sale on the open market in April 2016 by Enterprise Inns. After word spread about the alarming prospect of losing the beloved village pub, a working committee was formed to investigate the prospect of community purchase. The committee quickly set about listing the Half Moon Inn as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, which gave them a 6-month period to prepare a prospective bid to buy the pub for the village.

After a public meeting in October, with over 150 attendees, there was a clear show of local support for the campaign as pledges were received to help back the cause to turn The Half Moon Inn into a community-owned pub.

Since then, a determined group of locals have set up a Community Benefit Society, the Balcombe Community Pub Limited, and have been hard at work raising the £300,000 plus needed to buy the pub through a community share offer, which enables people to invest between £250 and £100,000 and become members – and democratic owners – of the pub.

Rodney Saunders, Secretary for Balcombe Community Pub, Ltd. said: “Village support has been critical and our success is a testament to the strong community spirit in Balcombe. Over 300 villagers invested to keep our pub a pub. We are also grateful for the advice and support from Plunkett Foundation. With their help, we didn’t need to “reinvent the wheel” and we are proud to have joined the growing ranks of community-owned pubs.”

The group has received advice on community engagement and setting up a co-operative, including a £2,500 bursary, from the More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme, a two-year project delivered by Plunkett Foundation and established to help support community ownership of pubs in England. The Half Moon Inn will become the third pub to open after receiving this support, which is funded by The Department for Communities and Local Government and Power to Change.

Pubs Minister Andrew Percy said: “Our pubs are a great British institution. From historical inns to village locals, they provide an informal setting where people can get together and socialise. In rural areas they can also provide valuable services for local people.

“Thanks to the More Than a Pub programme and local campaigners, the Half Moon Inn will now stay at the heart of the community.

“This is a great reason to celebrate with a pint, and I hope the other new owners benefitting from the programme will raise a glass to the success of their businesses too.”

Plunkett Foundation’s Nicole Hamilton, Project Manager for More Than A Pub, said: “We’re thrilled to see The Half Moon Inn opening under community ownership. It will be so much more than a pub – it will provide an important social space and give the community a sense of place and identity. With plans to continue to build on providing even more opportunities for local people, we wish them every success.”

Jenny Sansom of Power to Change said: “The Half Moon Inn is a fantastic example of community business and is exactly the type of innovative model we wish to support.”

The management committee has launched an advertising campaign in the search of a permanent tenant for The Half Moon Inn. The committee is interested in hearing from any publicans who would be thrilled to work with a community-owned pub. For tenant application details, visit http://www.savethehalfmoon.co.uk/.

The Half Moon Inn will become the first co-operatively-owned pub in West Sussex. Pubs saved in this way are viable and sustainable forms of businesses; ownership is widespread and democratic, and they tend to be run by full-time managers or tenants.