So what do you do when your local village pub closes? Drive to the next village I guess. But what do you do when that one closes too? And what replaces the local pub's role in the informal village social network? Facebook? I hope not. Recent statistics suggest that 30 pubs are closing in the UK every week and most of them never re-open. Nineteen closed in Essex alone in 2014.
The Cross Inn, Great Bromley, a few miles outside Colchester, on the edge of neighbouring Ardleigh, closed its doors in May 2015. A few locals didn't want the Cross to become yet another statistic and decided to do something about it. And that's why this website is here.
In 2015 The Cross Inn, in Great Bromley, Essex closed and was put up for sale as a development opportunity. A group of locals didn't want to lose the Cross as thir village pub so set up "Save the Bromley Cross". And amazingly, 18 months later, the pub is ope again under community ownership.
At the end of 2014, the owners of the Cross Inn received outline planning consent to build 2 houses on the pub garden. The pub had become noticeably quieter over the previous 6 months and this decline continued. In March 2015, the parish council, with support from Tendring CAMRA, obtained an Asset of Community Value registration from Tendring District Council (View it here).
This recent legislation, part of the Localism Act 2011, means "Parish Councils and community groups can nominate a public or private asset to be registered on the Assets of Community Value register giving communities the opportunity to collate a bid for an asset, should it be disposed of on the open market." A couple of months later the Cross Inn closed and was put up for sale as a development opportunity, and that's the point where the Asset of Community Value registration kicked in. The local community had 6 weeks to register its intention to bid, so that's what we did. We formed "Save The Bromley Cross", obtained the necessary local signatures, filled in the paperwork and registered our intention with Tendring District Council. That gave us 6 months to raise the funds to make a bid. There is no obligation of the owner to accept an offer from a community group, but there was only one way to find out.
We followed the guidelines from the Plunkett Foundation, a group which helps rural community groups with this sort of project, and even received a small bursary to help with our costs. We also received great help and advice from the group that saved the Case Is Altered, in Bentley, Suffolk. They went through a similar process 2 years ago and now have a thriving village pub. In June 2015 we undertook a village survey (using this questionnaire), to determine the level of local support for a community pub, post office and shop. The results were very encouraging - from 150 completed questionnaires, two-thirds of people thought a village pub was either important or very important. You can see a summary of the results in this presentation.
Nearly 100 people turned up at the subsequent public meeting, and a show of hands at the end demonstrated nearly unanimous support for the project, with many people saying they would offer financial support under the right terms. The public meeting also generated valuable publicity on BBC Radio Essex (listen to recording here). WIth this level of support, Save The Bromley Cross felt we had to proceed with the purchase of the pub to create our community hub.
A hardcore of about 20 people, with support from a much wider group and the Plunkett Foundation setup and registered a company, The Great Bromley Cross Pub Community Benefit Society Ltd. A Community Benefit Society is a type of not-for-profit business, which must exist for the benefit of the community and is owned by the community. We paid for a commercial valuation of the pub and based on this made an offer for the pub and garden, as a public house. We made it clear we would not be developing the garden. Our offer was not accepted, and we were told that the owners were holding out for the full asking price, £395,000, since they saw the pub as a residential development opportunity. The Cross is not worth anywhere near this sort of a money as a pub, and Save The Bromley Cross is not interested in buying a development opportunity. Sadly at the start of November 2015 the Post Office, which was situated in a room at the back of the pub, was closed - another terrible loss for our village.
The Asset of Community Value moratorium ended on November 6th and within a few weeks the pub had been sold to a property developer.
With no short term prospect of buying the pub, Save The Bromley Cross returned to being a campaign group. We lobbied the district council and publicised the loss of another village pub, as you can see in the local press and on BBC Radio Essex. And Save The Bromley Cross continued to organise Pop Up Pubs. These not only raise funds for the campaign, but spread the word and remind people of the benefit of local pubs.
In March 2016 the new owner of the Cross Inn contacted Save the Bromley Cross. He had sold the garden to a local builder, and was interested in developing the car park. Fortunately we were able to convince him that it would be better kept as a pub car park, and we made an offer to buy the pub and car park, which he accepted. So now we have a new challenge - £210,000 to raise to save the Bromley Cross. If that sounds like a lot of money, let's add some perspective. The price includes the pub and car park, but not the old patio or garden, which was sold separately and now has planning permission for 2 houses. But the pub includes self-contained, 3 bedroom accommodation upstairs. And to ease the task, 3 local couples have agreed an emergency loan up to £150,000 towards purchase price, short-term, if we fail to raise the full amount.
Our share prospectus and business plan have been approved by HMRC. We launced our sha scheme on October 5th 2016. We are following the model used by the Case and Plunkett foundation and are selling shares in our Community Benefit Society to raise the cash to purchase the Cross. Minimum investment will be £250 up to £50,000, and tax relief of between 30% to 50% will be available. After 3 years, we plan to offer a small amount of interest on your shares, assuming the pub is a success. The CBS will be run by a Management Committee and each shareholder gets one vote to elect the Management Committee. Full details of the scheme including downloadable copies of our prospectus and business plan are on our website http://www.greatbromleycross.org.uk/shares.