Cambs villagers inching closer to raising money to buy pub

Residents outside the Royal Oak pub, Hail Weston, celebrating their proposal to buy (and save) the p

Residents outside the Royal Oak pub, Hail Weston, celebrating their proposal to buy (and save) the pub - Credit: Archant

A VILLAGE is inching closer towards buying its only pub.

The Hail Weston Community Pub Society has joined together to raise the capital to bid for the freehold of the pub and gardens of the Royal Oak, Hail Weston.

The group have held monthly pub nights including a Bavarian evening to go towards their £150,000 target.

They have also been issuing shares and applying for grants to supplement the funds.

Karl Frestle, Chairman of the Hail Weston Community Pub Society, said: “We are in the process of people buying shares and applying for grants.

“It’s a difficult stage; we don’t want to make an offer until we have broadly the amount of money we were looking at.”

The society has until December 3 to agree a sale with the owner, which is when the sixth month moratorium giving them the first opportunity to make an offer comes to an end.

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If a sale is not agreed with the society, any future owner would be required to use the pub for its current purpose.

The pub has had a turbulent history following the sale of the 17th century building to Andy Vidler on November 30 2011 after many years of ownership by the Charles Wells Pub Company.

Villagers became concerned that the new owner did not plan to use the building as a pub and many were galvanised into action.

They then formed the Save the Royal Oak Action Group to protect the future of their much-loved pub.

After suffering a stroke which left him blind in one eye, the new owner was forced to put the pub back on the market despite his intentions to convert it into a tea room, art gallery, and beauty parlour. However, at the auction on March 7 2012 it received no bids and remained unsold.

There was strong opposition from the community when plans were disclosed to put the pub up for auction once again on May 3 as two separate lots for the building and the garden with the potential for change of use.

When the Parish Council held an Extraordinary General Meeting on April 24 to discuss the plans, 130 residents out of 475 registered electors attended.

However, only one bid was offered for each of the two lots and both bids were less than the reserve price. The pub was subsequently removed from the estate agent’s listings.

Concerned residents created a committee to explore options for a community bid to purchase the building before launching their fundraising efforts in January this year.

If the society successfully purchases the Royal Oak, they then plan to find a tenant to run the pub.