Campaigners in Kent have been celebrating after winning CAMRA’s prestigious Pub Saving Award, which recognises communities that save their beloved local pub from closure.

The national award recognises campaigners for saving 200-year-old village pub the Harrow in Stockbury, which faced closure after it was put up for sale in 2016.

Now the pub is a thriving community hub with social lunches for vulnerable people, book swaps and an internet cafe.

The campaigners secured the £380,000 needed to buy the pub from Shepherd Neame through a network of 140 shareholders and money from the Plunkett Foundation, which helps rural communities, and community pub support programme More Than A Pub.

The pub re-opened in August this year and is now described as a “buzzing and thriving” part of Stockbury.

The campaigners raised awareness of the pub’s plight throughout the local community by utilising local papers and hosting various events such as quiz nights, BBQs and performances in the village centre.

Local MP Helen Whately wrote directly to Shepherds Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame to throw her support behind the community group and councillors donated funding towards the refurbishment of the pub.

The pub successfully re-opened in August 2017 with the ambition of being the “social hub of the community”. Today it offers a regular social lunch for vulnerable members of the community – including pick up and drop off services – as well as a book swap and an internet cafe for those with poor internet access. Local darts and petanque teams have returned to the pub and it is now a buzzing and thriving part of Stockbury.

Harrow CBS Group chair Chris Porter said: “It is a fantastic achievement to have saved this pub from closure thanks to the help of hundreds of people – stakeholders, villagers, councillors, press, MPs and groups like Pub is the Hub and Plunkett.

“Through these efforts our little community is better connected than ever before. It is an absolute delight to receive this award from CAMRA and be able to show other communities that it is possible to save their local from disappearing forever.”

Praising the winner Paul Ainsworth, who organises CAMRA’s Pub Saving Award said: “The Harrow CBS group used every tool available to save their beloved pub from closure, and it is an absolute delight to celebrate this with our Pub Saving Award.

“Once a pub is closed, it is too often lost for ever and their success should be a great inspiration to other communities faced with losing their local – pubs really can be saved.”

The runner-up in the competition was the Craufurd Arms Community Group, which attracted the attention of judges after saving the last pub in North Maidenhead, Berkshire using the combined efforts of everyone down to the local residents all the way up to the Prime Minister. Pictured left, staff and customers at its official reopening. Photo: Emma Sheppard

Support also came from Sir Robert and Lady Georgina Craufurd, after whose family the pub is named.

When the pub was threatened by closure the local community sprung to action to raise the required funds to purchase the pub off a guide price of £325,000. After securing the support of the local community through residents’ surveys, public meetings and press and social media engagement.

Craufurd Arms Society chairman Mark Newcombe said: “With the help of our members and supporters the Craufurd Arms – our pint-sized community pub – has been able to thrive and prosper as a vital social and community hub and a profitable business.

“The fact that we managed to raise the funds in such a short period of time is a testament to the incredible efforts of the committee, investors, supporters and CAMRA members.”

CAMRA’s Paul Ainsworth said: “The Craufurd Arms Community Group should be recognised for the fantastic work that they have done to save their local pub from closure. Using every tool available to them and tapping into any and all channels – including the Prime Minister – this group is a great inspiration to communities across the country.”

Nicole Hamilton, Head of Frontline at Plunkett Foundation, said: “The Plunkett Foundation were delighted to be involved in judging the Pub Saving Award and encouraged to see so many strong applications from communities who actively campaigned to save their local pub.

She said the award winning pubs are shining examples of what can be achieved through strong campaigns which have ensured their community pub business meets the wider needs of their community and members.”

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