People power saving hundreds of pubs

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People power saving hundreds of pubs

People power is helping save scores of pubs across the country with community ownership increasing by more than 60 per cent over the last five years, according to new research.

Analysis by Co-Operatives UK has found that the number of community-owned pubs has increased by 62.6 per cent over the last five years. This figure shows impressive growth, considering the backdrop of record closures in the wider industry.

Community pubs involve people coming together to form a new democratic business, with supporters owning a stake and the business is run for the benefit of its locality.

Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley said: "As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, we really are coming full circle, with co-operation at the heart of economic growth. Everywhere in modern business, from artificial intelligence to farming and culture to data, there are co-ops."

It is 10 years since the George in Wickham Market, Suffolk (pictured above) was almost destroyed by fire and eight years since a group of volunteers got together to save this historic Grade II-listed building.

The road to success was not easy. In November 2021, the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded the George a £988,200 Heritage Enterprise grant which alongside shareholder funds and other grants was thought to be enough to complete the renovation.

However, when tenders were received for the building work, inflation had taken its toll and costs were shown to be far higher than original projections.

A spokesman for the George committee said: “Without the success of this project this important Grade II-listed building would have been demolished and lost forever.

“We can now ensure that the George will be saved to serve many generations to come. As an inclusive, friendly place to meet and eat with friends and family it will be the people's pub and the heartbeat of a thriving village.”

A new phase of Scottish Community Pubs Partnership is providing business support and grant funding to safeguard pubs in rural parts of the country.

In addition to bespoke business support, the programme offers the opportunity for early-stage pub projects in rural Scotland to apply for small grants of up to £2,000 to help with initial costs and feasibility work.

Plunkett Foundation head of community business Claire Spendley said: “Across the UK, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits that community-owned pubs can bring by creating innovative, inclusive spaces that make a real impact in their communities.

“From hosting dementia cafes, food banks, junk food projects and cooking courses to implementing environmentally sustainable initiatives such as e-bike charging, solar panels and repair cafes, we’ve seen community pubs go above and beyond to meet the needs of their local communities.”


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