[photo: Directors of Loxley Community Benefit Society celebrate the purchase with a socially distanced drink]
The small village of Loxley near Stratford-upon-Avon is the latest to save its only pub from permanent closure.
Local residents acted quickly when the Fox was unexpectedly put up for sale in April 2019. They formed an action group, conducted a community survey and held consultation events in Loxley and neighbouring villages, to generate and gauge support for community ownership of the pub. They set up a community benefit society and made an offer to buy the Fox which was accepted in October 2019. They then set about raising the investment needed.
The group received support from the More Than A Pub programme, which provides free advice and webinars, bursaries, grants and loans to communities seeking to buy their local, as well as those who are already trading. The programme is funded by Power to Change and is delivered by Plunkett Foundation working in partnership with Co-operative & Community Finance and the Key Fund.
The community share issue exceeded its target of £250k and raised a total of £271,150 from 214 investors who were almost entirely local residents. Interestingly, another community pub in Warwickshire, the New Inn at Norton Lindsey, invested the £250 prize money it had received from the Plunkett Community Business Awards.
Together with the grant and loan from More Than A Pub, the community had the finance it needed to buy the Fox. However the purchase was greatly delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and was not completed until 1 September 2020.
Paul Jennings, Chair of Loxley Community Benefit Society, said: “The Fox is a traditional pub in a small rural village that has no shop or village hall. It is the centre of the community – the only public space for people to meet and interact. If the community had not come together and bought it, the site would probably have been sold to a housing developer.”
The villagers will have to wait till spring before they can savour the hospitality of their new purchase. Repairs and refurbishment are needed to the roof, bar area and the upstairs accommodation. A manager needs to be recruited.
The Fox has a beer garden, car park and paddock and this outside space will be particularly useful in allowing the pub to operate as safely as possible while the threat of virus infection remains high. In the longer term there are plans to create a community orchard and vegetable garden in the paddock.
Asked why he believed the Fox would flourish under community ownership when previous tenants had struggled, Paul explained: “We don’t have to pay rent and we can choose our suppliers. This helps our cost base. Also we are not under pressure to make quick or high profits. Our aim is sustainability. We are providing and maintaining a community asset for the long term.”
Tim Coomer, Business Development Manager of Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to support Loxley CBS to secure the Fox. I visited the group back in February 2020 just before the COVID-19 situation unfolded and put the project’s future into jeopardy. Seven months on it’s fantastic that their determination and commitment to secure the Fox into community ownership never wavered and the community now proudly have their pub back; even if they will have to wait awhile for their first pint!”