As we reported in A Review of 2017, the More Than A Pub programme, funded by the government and Power to Change, has helped many communities take ownership and control of their local pubs. At the end of September there were 69 co‑operative pubs open for business in England and Wales and a further 236 community groups were on the way to pub ownership.
Lending to pubs forms a significant proportion of Co‑operative & Community Finance’s loan portfolio. With the More Than A Pub programme coming to a successful conclusion in March 2019 we have been assessing its potential legacy.
Co-operative & Community Finance has arranged 36 loans totalling £1.8m to co-operative pubs via the various funds it owns or manages. Of these 10 loans, totalling £510,000, are from the More Than A Pub fund.
“We expect Co-operative & Community Finance to remain the first choice for lending to community-owned pubs. We have huge knowledge and experience of lending to this niche market,” said Tim Coomer, Business Development Manager. “Although the grant funding and most of the advisory support will cease when the programme ends, the money in the loan fund will continue to be used. Co-operative & Community Finance will continue to manage a £750,000 revolving loan fund specifically for pubs as a legacy of the More Than A Pub programme.”
So far this year Co-operative & Community Finance has released loans to four new community-owned pubs and there are many more in the pipeline.
The first loan of 2018 was to Caverswall Community Society, near Stoke on Trent, to buy the Auctioneers Arms. The pub had been empty for several years and after refurbishment it reopened in May.
In March we helped the residents of the small village of Winterbourne Bassett in Wiltshire to buy their local. This was a particularly quick turnaround, taking just five months from first meeting to completion, including raising £450,000.
By contrast the people of Ash, near Sandwich in Kent, fought for three years to save the 500-year-old Chequer Inn from redevelopment. Matthew Titterton, who began the campaign, said in April: “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.”
The people of Cawsand in east Cornwall are facing an even bigger challenge. They have bought the large site of a derelict pub that burnt down five years ago. The society has ambitious plans to rebuild The Old Ship Inn, create new community facilities and provide much needed affordable rented accommodation.