Maybush blooms after community investment

Almost a year after it closed, the only pub in an Essex village is about to reopen with new owners – the local community.

Over 130 people from Great Oakley and nearby have invested a total of more than £83,000 to finance the purchase and refurbishment of the Maybush Inn. A loan from Co-operative & Community Finance has provided the additional finance needed for the purchase.

Great Oakley, near Harwich, has a population of 2,200, a primary school, a doctors’ surgery, a convenience store, a church and a village hall. When the pub closed in March 2015 and was repossessed by the mortgage company the villagers were worried that it would be sold for redevelopment and the village would lose its pub forever.

With help from Plunkett Foundation they set up a community benefit society and managed to get the Maybush Inn registered as an Asset of Community Value.

The community share offer emphasised the social value of the pub to the well-being of the community. The minimum shareholding was set at just £10 to allow all local people join the society. In fact most people invested between £200 and £500.

Mark Godfrey, the chairman of the society (pictured above 4th from right in back row), said: “I think the Maybush will flourish under community ownership because it will be responsive to the needs of local people. For example we plan to open at 7.30 in the morning. We are exploring the idea of running a breakfast club for schoolchildren. We are also in touch with the library service.”

The purchase was completed on 12 February and the pub will open after some minor repairs and redecoration. Instead of leasing to a tenant (as the previous owner did) the society has decided to employ a manager to run the pub with help from volunteers. “This will give us more control and flexibility to adapt,” said Mark.

In the longer term there are plans to convert the upstairs apartment for use as bed and breakfast accommodation.

Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “The Maybush Inn is set to become the community hub of Great Oakley – a place where people can meet, socialise and get things done, and enjoy themselves of course.

“It’s great to see co-operative pubs flourishing and we will be happy to support more of them. They are a great example of the benefit of democratic local ownership.”