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Locals aim to save 'heart of the village' pub after it goes up for sale

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Supporters at the Horse and Groom pub at Woodgreen (Photo: Spencer Mulholland Photography)
Supporters at the Horse and Groom pub at Woodgreen (Photo: Spencer Mulholland Photography)

VILLAGERS in Woodgreen are hoping to save their only pub by buying it themselves after the existing owners Hall & Woodhouse put it up for sale.

The Horse & Groom, which is described as being “at the heart of the village”, has been closed since September – having been put on the market in the spring.

Woodgreen Parish Council successfully applied for the pub to be designated an Asset of Community Value, which gave villagers six months to come up with a bid of their own.

But with just three weeks to go before their time is up, the group has only raised around £150,000 of the £550,000 asking price. They would also need an additional £150,000 to cover stamp duty, legal fees, VAT and necessary refurbishments.

This week, Jane Cant, a semi-retired finance director who is one of the campaign organisers, said: “We are calling on all villagers and anyone else with an interest to help us buy the Horse & Groom.

“We need to keep it as a good pub that will serve the community. It is really at the heart of the village and is the only pub we have got.

“Sadly, over the past few years it has been steadily going downhill. If the villagers buy it, we can ensure that it is returned to the way it once was.

“If we don’t buy it we will have no control over its future at all – it could be bought by someone who turns it into a thriving business; equally it could be purchased by someone who runs it down and it eventually gets turned into a house.”

A community benefit society has been set up by campaigners, along with a website called Hagpub on which they outline their plans for buying the pub. Shares valued at £50 each are being offered to raise the purchase price, which is featured on Victorian murals painted on the village hall walls.

Mrs Cant said: “We have had a good response so far but we still have a fair way to go, and time is running out. We really don’t want to lose this amazing asset.

“The village needs a good pub that is loved by the villagers, and if we all get together we can achieve that.”

Hall & Woodhouse must consider any bid made on behalf of the community, but is under no obligation to accept it.

Estate agent Savills are marketing the Horse & Groom describing it as a ‘traditional public house’ in an affluent village location in the New Forest National Park.’

In a public survey of what locals wanted from their pub, Woodgreen residents said good beer and wine, a cosy, warm atmosphere and reasonably priced quality food were top priorities.

Mrs Cant said: “If we bought the pub we could manage to provide all that and more. We are offering loans to people to buy shares at an interest rate of 2.2% in the hope that we can reach our target. The money raised is going up daily but we still need more.”

In the past, Woodgreen villagers managed to buy their shop when it was on the verge of closure.

Mrs Cant continued: “That has been a great success. The shop was attached to a private house and when the owners wanted to close it, villagers managed to buy the business and the parish council gave us some land on which we built a new shop.

“It was a great triumph by the community and has helped local suppliers by supporting them. We would love to achieve a similar thing with the pub – we managed to save our shop, now we need to save our pub!”

Julie Rich, who has spearheaded efforts to energise the community, said: ‘This is an amazing opportunity to benefit the community and keep the pub as a pub for as long as the locals want it.”

A spokesperson for Woodgreen Parish Council said members were “fully supportive of the efforts to keep a pub village”, adding: “as well as the shop and the church, the pub is an integral part of the village.”

Mark James, a director of Hall & Woodhouse, said: “The Horse & Groom pub went on sale in June 2018. We are pleased with the level of interest we have received from parties seeking to purchase the village pub, and hope to complete a sale to the next custodian in the coming months.

“We would like to thank the local community for their ongoing support and custom over the years, and hope they will continue to enjoy the pub’s facilities once the new operator of the Horse & Groom is in.”

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