VILLAGERS keen to save their pub for the community have been told their registration as a potential bidder was not accepted in time so the pub will now go on the open market — but the community has not given up.
Support by residents in Chillaton to purchase the Chichester Arms as a community-owned asset following a number of public meetings was so great that a community interest company was set up by the steering group, formed from the first meeting, in order to register as a potential bidder for the pub.
The owners of the currently closed pub are intending to sell the business, but as it was already registered as an Asset of Community Value, a community group could have been considered as a potential bidder for the property. If a valid group did register as a potential bidder, the pub could not be sold on the open market for around four and a half months.
The group Chillaton Community Enterprises Ltd was set up as the quickest way to establish a ‘valid community group’ before the deadline of May 15.
Unfortunately, although the appropriate paperwork was sent off in time, processing was still incomplete by the deadline, meaning the group’s registration was not accepted by West Devon Borough Council. This means the restriction on the sale of the pub to anyone other than a valid community group before October will not apply.
However, the group is not too disheartened, as they have realised some benefits of the pub being on sale on the open market.
Neil Jory, chair of the steering group, said: ‘In view of the amount of support for the purchase of the pub, the steering group decided that a valid community group should register with the borough council as a potential bidder. For that request to be accepted, the community group making it had to be “properly constituted”.
For Chillaton Community Enterprises Ltd that meant being registered as a company. The necessary forms were sent off in good time to the registrar, but the process was still incomplete by May 15 and therefore registration as a potential bidder was not accepted by the borough council.
‘The owners of the pub were informed and a helpful discussion then took place with some members of the steering group. Essentially, all concerned agreed that there were considerable benefits in not restricting the ability of the owners to sell the pub. It would not have been likely that the owners would have accepted an offer from the village when they had not tested the market generally. Equally, it would have been difficult for the village to reach an offer figure, without any idea of the expectations of the owners or the existence or not of other potential buyers.
‘The owners have agreed to keep the steering group informed of any progress they make in offering the pub for sale, to regard the village as a potential purchaser and to allow a surveyor to make an internal inspection of the pub. This seems to be a good outcome for all concerned; the owners of the pub are not restricted in their efforts to sell it and a bid from the village will be welcomed along with any others received.’
Mr Jory said for all those who wished to see the pub restored as a community pub, owned by the village and providing as wide a range of community facilities as possible, now was the time to consider what financial support villagers would be prepared to provide.
He said there were several charitable bodies willing to consider making grants and preferential loans available, as well as the Governments new £3.6-million fund to help rural pubs, but said in every case, what might be provided would be geared to how much support there was in the village and that would be measured by the amount of money local residents were prepared to contribute.
‘I’m asking residents to contact me at email@example.com to indicate, without any binding commitment, how much they would be prepared to lend or to donate to the purchase of the pub.
‘Please email me as soon as you can. If you need further information or advice before doing so, please get in touch. No information on individual donations will be given to the steering group; they will only be told the total amount identified.’