Community meeting to buy village pub in Helpringham

A public meeting is being held in Helpringham to discuss plans to buy the village pub, the Nags Head. EMN-150520-114833001
A public meeting is being held in Helpringham to discuss plans to buy the village pub, the Nags Head. EMN-150520-114833001

A community will meet tonight (Wednesday) to consider whether to back a bid to buy their village pub.

The Save Our Nags group, started and led by Mikaela Timmerhues, has managed to put a temporary hold on the sale of their local pub in Helpringham by having it listed as an asset of community value for six months while they attempt to buy it.

There will be a public meeting tonight (Wednesday) at 7pm at Helpringham Memorial Hall to explain the next step and how villagers can get involved in running it as a not-for-profit co-operative pub.

The Nags Head in Helpringham has been put up for sale by its freehold owners, Enterprise Inns, but the community is concerned that the pub could be sold to developers who, over time, would seek to redevelop the site.

Zoë Watson, Secretary of Save Our Nags - a community enterprise group - said: “The group’s belief is that the pub and the site it occupies are vital amenities for Helpringham and that the best interest of the community will be served by acquiring it through a community benefit society.

“This will enable the village to secure and safeguard the pub for the foreseeable future. Neighbouring villages have already lost their pubs and the group is aware of the impact that pub closure can have. Pub closure not only threatens the social cohesion of a community but also exacerbates the impact of rural isolation.”

She said by acquiring the Nags Head in this way, the community would also be able to protect that central part of the village encompassing the Memorial Hall, playing field, The Green conservation area and the Nags Head. The group would most likely install a tenant landlord to run the business.

She said there were about 34 co-operative pubs in the UK, all successful. They have been advised by the Plunkett Foundation which has 100 years of experience in promoting community enterprises.

The group intend to finance the acquisition and subsequent improvement projects through a mixture of local authority, national and European grants, independent trust and private donations, commercial finance and most importantly through support from the community in the form of Community Shares.

Mrs Watson said: “This represents a fantastic opportunity for Helpringham to continue to strengthen the vibrancy and sustainability of the community.”

She said benefits of the purchase include: maintaining a place to meet friends and neighbours and improving the sense of community; providing a central point for information on community events and local issues; securing the central part of the village by and for the community; improving the fabric and amenities of the building; creating opportunities for employment; helping to sustain property prices in the village; highlighting Helpringham as one of those increasingly rare rural communities maintaining a school, garage, shop, post office and pub.

Thirty years ago the village purchased its own playing field and the Memorial Hall was built by the community in the 1950’s.

Tonight’s meeting is for the campaign group to explain how as a community Helpringham will be able to purchase and own their local pub and how the business will benefit the local community. There will be a guest speaker from another successful co-operative pub scheme in Essex, who has been put forward as an adviser by the Plunkett Foundation. Alan Collard, from Toppesfield, is part of a group that three years ago purchased their pub, The Green Man, and has been part of creating a successful village shop. They are in the process of opening a co-operative brewery behind the pub.

For more information contact Zoë Watson on 01529 421650 / 07989659694.