The people of a small rural village near Haverhill, Suffolk, are today celebrating the community purchase of the local pub, which has been closed for five years.
The Three Horseshoes in Helions Bumpstead (population 440) joins the growing number of community-owned pubs. There are now 79 trading in England and Wales and several more getting ready to open for business. There is also a significant cluster of community-owned pubs in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Indeed the Three Tuns at Guilden Morden, which was bought last November by the community also after a five-year struggle, is just 30 miles from Helions Bumpstead.
The Three Horseshoes had been a thriving village pub with a beautiful garden and a good reputation for food but it started to go downhill when it was bought by private owners in 2012. They failed to make a success of running the pub and closed the doors in May 2014. They tried to use the premises for other business ventures but there were objections from the local community.
Alison Meldrum, Secretary of the Helions Bumpstead Community Benefit Society, explained: “There have been a lot of delays and battles with planning permission, ACV (Asset of Community Value) status, objections and appeals, but we have finally got there in the end.
“When the pub closed the village lost its central place to meet and socialise. When we started talking to people about the community buying the pub we found that everyone was thinking the same way. It has really brought people together.”
The community share issue raised £285,392 from 153 local investors. In addition, the community was awarded £100,000 in grants and loans under 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 Plunkett Foundation. Co-operative & Community Finance arranges loan finance for groups that have successfully attracted local investment, usually in the form of community shares.
Alison Meldrum said: “Although we have got a good range of skills and experience on the management committee none of us have ever done anything like this before. The help from More Than a Pub programme has been invaluable, and the network of community pubs is excellent. There is lots of knowledge and advice available from people who have done the same thing.”
Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager for Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “It has been a long road to community-ownership for the Three Horseshoes and it is a tribute to the determination of a small group of skillful people who made sure they had the backing of the local community.”
On Saturday 23 March there will be an open day at the Three Horseshoes when people will be able to see inside their local pub for the first time in five years. Because it has been unused for so long there is a significant amount of refurbishment to do and the management committee has not yet set a date for when the pub will start trading. They have advertised for a tenant to run the pub and hope to recruit in the next month or so.