The New Year started well for the people of Cookshill and Caverswall, neighbouring villages on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent. On 5 January their long fight to save their pub from demolition came to an end when the Auctioneers Arms was bought by Caverswall Community Society.
Some 130 local people had bought shares in the society, which together with a package of investment, loans and grants from Co-operative & Community Finance, Big Society Capital, Power to Change, Plunkett Foundation and Key Fund, was enough to buy the 150-year-old pub.
The Auctioneers Arms, known locally as ‘The Knocks’, had been a popular local pub until a few years ago. But lack of investment by the pub company that owned it and a rapid turnover of tenants led to a decline in business. In August 2016 the pub was sold to a property development company that planned to demolish it.
Over 60 local people got together to express their concerns at a large meeting in November 2016, where they started on the journey to community ownership. They successfully applied to the local authority to have the Auctioneers Arms listed as an Asset of Community Value, and they sought advice from CAMRA, Plunkett Foundation and other community-owned pubs.
Caverswall Community Society plans to put the Auctioneers Arms back at the heart of the community. In addition to being a friendly pub, it will also run a café, provide meeting rooms and various services such as parcel collection, recycling facilities etc. There will be traditional pub games including darts, dominoes and skittles and also fundraising events (especially auctions!).
Brian Griffiths, chair of Caverswall Community Society, said: “I would like to thank the many people and organisations that have helped us get to this wonderful moment. We have saved the Knocks from being demolished and now it belongs to the local community. We have fantastic local support and this will help the pub to succeed. Community-owned pubs use a business model that works. We are not aiming to make huge profits. Any surplus will be reinvested in the pub, making it better for the local community.”
Tim Coomer, Business Development Manager for Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “The people of Cookshill and Caverswall have been very tenacious to save their pub. We are pleased to have helped by approving lending to add to the financial package of investment, grants and loans they have put together through their determined efforts.”