The people of Ash, near Sandwich in Kent, have succeed in buying the 500-year old Chequer Inn that has been closed for four years. The pub had previously been bought by a developer but the villagers blocked the planning application and persuaded the local authority to make the pub and 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. This programme is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Power to Change, and 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 over £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 – from Alaska, Australia, North Carolina, Scotland and Yorkshire – from people who had moved away but still had fond memories of the Chequer Inn.
Matthew Titterton, who originally began the campaign in December 2015 to prevent the pub from turning into housing, 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, said: “It’s all very exciting. The committee have 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.”