Historic pub reopens after four years thanks to community shares campaign

The Chequer Inn in Kent had been earmarked for development until locals intervened to save it

A historic village pub which has been closed for four years has reopened after a community shares campaign by local residents.

The  500-year old Chequer Inn in Ash, near Sandwich, Kent, had been bought by a developer but locals blocked the planning application and persuaded the council to make it as asset of community value.

They received specialist advice and finance from the More Than A Pub programme, which was set up in 2016 to support community ownership of pubs in England. Funded by the government and Power to Change, the programme is delivered by the Plunkett Foundation. Co-operative & Community Finance arranges loan finance for groups that have successfully attracted local investment, usually in the form of community shares.

The Chequer Inn Ash Society raised more than £400,000 through a combination of investment, grants and loans. The majority of shares were bought by local people but applications came from around the world – including Alaska, Australia, North Carolina, Scotland and Yorkshire – from people who had moved away but still had fond memories of the pub.

Matthew Titterton, who launched the campaign to save the Chequer Inn in December 2015, said: “We are all very excited and can’t believe that this day has finally arrived. It’s fantastic to know that this wonderful historic pub which has been the heart of the community for hundreds of years will now re-open, and this time there will be no national pub company owning it, but instead a community passionate for it to succeed.

“We have over 300 shareholders who are determined to make a success of it and, with the right tenant, we really hope that it will be a community pub to be proud of.”

Co-operative & Community Finance’s investment manager, Ian Rothwell, said: “The determination of the people of Ash to save their pub and prevent it being redeveloped as private housing has at last been rewarded. We are delighted to contribute to their fund raising success with a loan from the More Than A Pub programme.”

Jane Greaves, secretary of the Chequer Inn Ash Society, added: “It’s all very exciting. The committee has a number of working parties to get the pub up and running. Refurbishment will be carried out and we will start looking for a suitable tenant. We are hoping to have an open day for Shareholders in a few weeks, but as it is currently a building site, we have a health and safety team on board so that we can do things properly. We have a very ambitious project plan and we hope to be open by the autumn.

“The committee would like to thank everyone who has believed in the project right from the start, from the initial steering group that helped change the decision of Dover District Council members, to all campaigners, shareholders, investors, organisations and all their social media followers.”

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