Following an eight year wait, a community now finally owns its local pub.
The Norton Community Pub in Essex faced extinction in 2007 when a housing developer, which owned the land the pub was sat on, was set to demolish the building. A rescue by the community, along with support from the local council that imposed a ruling to ensure the building must function as a pub, helped ensure its survival.
But since the pub re-opened in 2009 it has been operating on a short-term lease, so the community raised £300,000 to purchase the property, which included a £175,000 loan from Unity Trust Bank.
The pub’s members eventually purchased the building from its landlord, who will also retain part of the land to build homes.
Debbie Guppy, director and chair of the management committee, said: “Over the years we’ve run the pub on a voluntary basis and then we set up the industrial provident society to enable shares to be purchased. Village volunteers, many of whom became part owners of the pub, kept the business afloat but with the high rates of rent imposed by the landlord, it was impossible to invest in the business or think long term. To survive and grow, we knew we must purchase the pub building.”
Following 18 months of refurbishment, its community shareholders now own the pub, based in the village of Cold Norton, with Unity Trust Bank having a legal charge over the property as a result of their financing.
Sean Taylor, relationship manager for Unity, said: “Pubs are great British businesses and play a key part in the local community infrastructure, supporting the local economy with job creation and social cohesion. We are aware of vast numbers of them having to close, so were really pleased to support Norton in the final stages of buying what is clearly deemed a community asset. The Cold Norton community has shown such passion and patience in all their hard work to save the Norton that Unity was immediately attracted to the organisation.
“We are seeing a resurgence of community owned business structures in conjunction with the localism agenda since the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.”
Ms Guppy added: “For the first time in over six years the Norton can now look beyond the next month and plan for an exciting future. The Norton is more than just a boozer; the community is at the heart of everything, from the volunteers to our local breweries who we proudly support. Keeping the pub open will keep this village alive. This investment means we can now look ahead to a prosperous and exciting 2015.”
The implementation of the restaurant has given rise to a full time chef and the development of an apprenticeship scheme to join the kitchen staff. The pub continues to have a core of 30 volunteers who run and manage it alongside its growing permanent staff.