Residents of a village in Pendle have raised almost half a million pounds to save their local pub from property developers looking to turn the historic establishment into housing.
Despite The Bay Horse Inn on Blacko Bar Road in Roughlee having been closed since a kitchen fire last September, residents in the village have come together to raise just short of £500,000 to buy the village's only pub themselves.
The pub originally encountered problems after being sold to a brewery 15 years ago, with tenants facing sky-high rents, prompting the owners to consider selling to property developers, only for the locals to launch their own sterling fundraising effort.
“The response has been fantastic,” said local businessman, Paul Dawson, who led the campaign. “We’ve had pledges ranging from £1,000 to £50,000; we got off to a fantastic start and it snowballed. Now we’re waiting for lawyers to complete the transaction.
"As well as Roughlee residents, several people from neighbouring villages chipped in, as well as families who stay at Pendle Caravan Park in the summer," Paul continued.
As well as substantial number of the village's 320 residents getting involved in the consortium to buy the pub, Roughlee Parish Council also lent a hand, registering it as an Asset of Community Value in March of this year to give villagers up to six months to raise the cash.
“We have a lot to thank the parish council for,” Paul added. “They persuaded Pendle Council that our pub was worth saving. The campaign has been hard work, but the community spirit has been fantastic.”
With 40 local investors, the consortium are now waiting to finalise the deal and are beginning their search for a tenant who can restore The Bay Horse Inn’s reputation as one of the region’s best food pubs.
“Roughlee is a lovely village in the Forest of Bowland, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” said villager, Robert Carson, whose family have lived in the area for 35 years. “But we don’t have a village shop, church, or cafe. To lose the pub would have turned Roughlee into a commuter village.
"When houses come up for sale they usually sell like hot cakes," Robert added. "Since the pub closed, 12 houses have gone on the market, and they are all still for sale. It looks like people don't want to move to a village without a pub, however picturesque it is."
Keen to avoid the mistakes of the past, the consortium are looking to make the much-loved pub the cornerstone of the community once more.
“The village is famous for its links with the Lancashire Witch trials in the 17th century, and locals joke that the pub must be cursed,” said Robert. “But the real curse has been high brewery rents that have forced out tenants.
“We’re not going to make that mistake,” he added. “Because we’ll own the pub, we can treat the tenant fairly, with a realistic rent.”
“It’s important that we get the right team,” Paul explained. “They’ll get fantastic support from the village, and we want to attract diners from all over Pendle. It used to be the busiest pub in the area, and we want it to be so again.”
Anyone interested in contacting the team can check the Roughlee Village website or contact Paul Dawson on 01282 693 953 or Robert Carson on 01282 696 997.