Locals in Southport take on the developers in a bid to save pub for the community

'Almost a quarter of privately owned pubs have closed their doors since 2008. Yet, 100% of community-owned pubs have survived'

Locals in Southport, Merseyside, are racing against the clock to save a threatened local pub from the developers and turn it into a community centre and cafe.

The Blundell Arms closed its doors in March 2016 but was registered as an asset of community value in May 2017 after hundreds of locals signed a petition to save it.

Support worker Jason McCormack set up the Dell Preservation Society, which wants to reopen the pub to offer a range of community facilities, including a cafe for families living with dementia, a wheelchair-accessible farm garden, a community, business and learning centre providing community IT training and resources, a microbrewery, a gin distillery, a children’s play area and a community radio station.

The group also have plans to offer employment to adults with special educational needs at the pub with the support of an established local charity.

But last year the plans suffered a setback when the brewery rejected its £150,000 bid for the pub and continued talks with a housing property developer. They are now have until 29 January to save the pub from planners and are calling on people to lodge their objections with Sefton Council.

If they succeed, they will launch at community share offer, supported by the government’s More Than a Pub programme.

Mr McCormack said: “Almost a quarter of privately owned pubs have closed their doors since 2008. Yet, 100% of community-owned pubs have survived.

“Opening a pub under community ownership not only protects a valuable asset but also brings a wealth of social benefits and improves the wellbeing of local people including those who are socially excluded or isolated in the wider community.

“Community pubs are so valuable to the people who use them, offering a huge range of crucial services including lunch clubs for vulnerable people, training and development, gardening and cooking classes, and parenting clubs.

Local dementia specialist Helen Green added: “Research has shown that families who are  affected by dementia are known to be at risk of social isolation … Many carers and family members have high levels of stress, an increased risk of depression and often feel incompetent.

“As part of the proposed development of the Blundell Arms to become a community pub there are plans to develop a dementia resource or hub. This will take place during the day time hours when the pub is quieter and will offer a relaxed and friendly, non-clinical environment for families living with dementia to meet.

“Other dementia cafés or hubs have proven to be very successful and often self-sufficient with a high level of attendance. In a community where the majority of the population are over retirement age and there are very limited alternative resources, this venture would be of great benefit to all.”

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