Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

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Villagers club together to secure future of local pub

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Jubilant locals at The WinterbourneJubilant locals at The WinterbourneA Wiltshire village pub has been saved from possible closure thanks to the hard work of the local people and help from the legal team at Optimum Professional Services.

The White Horse at Winterbourne Bassett was closed last October by the owner, Wadworth Brewery, following the landlady’s departure.

Local people got together to buy the pub, forming a Community Benefit Society. They managed to get the pub listed as an ACV – Asset of Community Value – which meant they had first refusal on the purchase, within a set timeframe.

Some 51 shareholders – largely drawn from the villagers – raised almost £300,00 to buy the building. A grant from the Plunkett Foundation and loans from Co-operative and Community Finance provided further funds needed to refurbish the pub, which is due to be reopened within the next few months, and has changed its name to The Winterbourne.

Mary Hoffman, who heads the legal team at Swindon-based Optimum, handled the pub’s purchase, liaising with Wadworth’s solicitors, the agents and the purchasers.

Pat Salter, a retired police officer who, along with husband David, was one of the driving forces behind the pub’s rescue, said Mary’s help had been invaluable.

“We had a good dialogue with the brewery, and they were very patient with us,” said Pat. “We had six months to raise the money under the terms of the ACV, but the brewery was prepared to be flexible and gave us a couple of extra weeks. Mary was very thorough and any inconsistencies were soon ironed out.”

The pub is currently being completely refurbished – starting with a new roof! The next stage is to install a new kitchen and find a tenant landlord to run it.

Pat said: “What started as a chat in the garden among six locals, who decided to try to save the pub, has really grown. There are 60 houses in the village, and nearly half of the residents have become shareholders. We’ve been to see other pubs where the communities have taken them over, to get some advice. It has been a steep learning curve, but we are now looking forward to the day it is reopened.”