New community pubs link to libraries, computer clubs ... even giving blood

The Harrow in Stockbury, The Craufurd Arms in Maidenhead and The Kings Head in Pebmarsh are all set to open under community ownership.

All three received support from the More Than a Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme, launched in 2016 by national charity Plunkett Foundation and funded by Department for Communities and Local Government and independent trust Power to Change.

Supported by the programme the groups have developed a sustainable business plan, raised community finance and explored how the additional activities provided by their community business can positively impact on their local communities and meet their needs.

The Harrow in Stockbury was put up for sale in September 2016 by Shepherd Neame. After word spread about the prospect of losing the last remaining pub in the village, a working committee was formed in a bid to save it. The pub had already been listed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, giving the community a 6-month period to prepare a bid to buy the pub for the village.

Since then, a determined group of locals set up a Community Benefit Society, The Harrow Pub (Stockbury) Ltd., and raised over £180,000 for their community share offer. Shareholders were invited to invest between £200 and £20,000 to become members – and democratic owners – of the pub.

The group has been receiving business advice and specialist support, 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 group has ambitious plans to develop The Harrow into a community hub with services and facilities beyond the traditional role of a local pub. Plans include a lunch club for senior citizens, internet drop in sessions and a café with a meeting space allowing members of the community to access new skills, socialise and meet someone new. The Harrow is set to be not just a pub, but a central hub for the community.

Dr Alan Cooke, Committee Member of the Harrow group name, said: “The purchase of the Harrow in Stockbury provides the opportunity to make it once again the social hub of the village. The enthusiasm in the parish to return the pub to a thriving and welcoming place is palpable as expressed in the number of shareholders we have and villagers who have volunteered to help with its renovation. We are over the first hurdle and although there will still be challenges ahead the goodwill and commitment generated will take us through these and make the Harrow a community asset that the village can be proud of.”

The Craufurd Arms, one of Maidenhead’s oldest pubs, was put up for sale on the open market in August 2016 by the Wellington Pub Company to the dismay of the local community. Not only is it North Maidenhead’s last remaining pub, The Craufurd Arms was a long-standing hub for the local community to get together, enjoy a drink and take part in traditional pub games.

After learning of the heart-breaking news, a determined group of locals set up a Community Benefit Society, the Craufurd Arms Society Ltd., which in turn raised over £270,000 from their community share offer in March 2017. Shareholders were invited to invest between £250 and £25,000 to become members – and democratic owners – of the pub.

Mark Newcombe, Chairman of The Craufurd Arms Society Ltd, said: “Thankfully we had listed the pub as an Asset of Community Value the year before it came on the market. This gave us six months to get organised and raise the required funds. We are so grateful for the support and advice we received from the Plunkett Foundation, I am sure without them we would not have been able to achieve our dream of bringing our pint-sized pub into community ownership.”

There are a number of ambitious plans to develop The Craufurd Arms into a community hub with services and facilities beyond the traditional role of a local pub. The community want to retain The Craufurd Arms as a place for the local community to socialise, host fundraising events for local charities and act as a meeting place for local sports teams to come to after weekend matches. They are also planning to work with a local charity; the Autism Group to provide an after school club for young adults on the autistic spectrum. This was not just about buying a pub; it was about helping to sustain a community and preserving local heritage.

The Kings Head in Pebmarsh was put up for sale by the owners who retired in September 2016, meaning the pub ceased trading. As the only remaining pub in the village, this news hit the local community hard. A number of locals soon rallied together and set up the Friends of the Kings Head group with the objective of re-opening the Kings Head as a community-owned pub.

The Pebmarsh community and friends come together and responded magnificently. Within just three months, the local community had pledged £275,000 to turn The Kings Head into a community-owned pub. Shares were available at £50 each. All shareholders will have one vote at meetings – showing this was truly a community venture.

With The Kings Head planning to be re-opened in August 2017 as a community-owned pub will secure the long term future of the pub as a key community asset for Pebmarsh and local communities, and stave off any threat of closure in the future. Following a comprehensive survey of the local community wishes and requirements, the Kings Head Pebmarsh has plans to extend its community offering to include a café and a shop selling essential items. They also intend to offer a range of drop-in services such as reading, craft and computer clubs in addition to hosting outreach services including a library bus and blood donation bus enabling the local community to access new skills and services.

John Flack, Friends of the Kings Head Pebmarsh, said “We have realised our dream of purchasing the Kings Head Pebmarsh on behalf of the Community, with more than 320 Shareholders who really care about saving this prized community asset. Our shareholders are in the majority from our local communities, but we have also attracted investment from as far as USA, Australia and New Zealand, from people who remembered the pub from their time in the village and wanted to help”.

The community will obtain the keys to The Kings Head on Thursday 29th June, when some essential repairs will be carried out with a planned re-opening event over the August Bank holiday weekend.

Nicole Hamilton, Head of Frontline and Project Manager for More Than a Pub, said: “We are delighted to have supported these groups to acquire their local pub through the programme and enable them to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to meet the needs currently being faced by their local communities.”

Jenny Sansom from Power To Change said: “There is amazing community spirit on display here. By making sure pubs host groups and charitable events, people are keeping their local pubs open and offering much more than a good pint.”

To find out more about the programme please call the programme advice line on 01993 810730 or click here.