Community suggestion for village pub

A VACANT pub villagers fought to save from developers could become the first community owned alehouse in the South East.

The Plough in Shepreth was under threat of being converted into a five-bedroom house but dedicated campaigners battled to save it from re-development.

South Cambs District Council blocked the application and now villagers are considering the possibility of running the pub as a co-operative, if no one comes forward to run it commercially.

The idea was floated at two packed meetings this week – with interest so high it was standing room only.

Sheila and David Elliott presented their brainchild, which may see The Plough also used as a post office, shop and restaurant, helping to alleviate the village’s lack of amenities.

Mrs Elliott said: “We all use our cars when we go anywhere. We don’t actually stop and talk to each other – we are all in our little boxes so we’re not really a happy community.

“This will make us a happy community – this is a good start.”

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The couple have been in conversation with the Plunkett Foundation, a charity which aids setting up and running community-owned businesses.

If the plans come to fruition residents and those associated with Shepreth would buy shares in the pub and a co-operative committee would oversee the running of the business.

However, the project would be dependent on securing a number of grants and donations to purchase and improve the pub, which is valued in excess of �500,000 and needs roughly �100,000 worth of improvements.

Mr Elliott said: “We would be quite happy if someone came in with a bid for the pub. I would like someone to take it and give it a good go.

“We feel this is a fall-back option we can go for and it might work.”

Despite the fact pubs are struggling in the current economic climate, Mrs Elliott, of Frog End, believes a community venture could weather the storm.

She said: “Because it would be a community pub you’re more likely to use it if you have a stake in it.

“If you know what the alternative is, that it could go back up for sale, you’re more likely to use it – it’s the responsibility of the village.”

Although SCDC blocked MPM Properties’ proposal, stating it would result in the loss of a village service which was economically viable, an appeal can still be lodged by developers for a number of months.

Parish council chairman Jenny Ravenhill was uncertain of the community pub plan’s viability, but welcomed villagers’ interest in resurrecting The Plough.

She said: “I support the move for us to get it back as a pub, the village desperately needs a pub – it needs a community hub.

“Running it as a community pub as a plan B if we can’t get it commercially would be fine, but it does need to be a plan B.”

She added that if there was any uncertainty in the village over the commercial viability of the pub, developers might continue with their plan.