Share scheme launched in bid to save future of Knebworth village pub
- Credit: Archant
A scheme aimed at enabling a community to save the future of its village pub has launched.
A two-year campaign to save The Station in Knebworth from a developer with plans to erect a block of flats in the pub garden ended with a planning inspector granting permission in January.
But the inspector did stipulate the pub, which closed in February 2017, must be retained as a pub.
The building and land were put up for sale separately in March, with an asking price of £595,000 for the building alone.
As both are listed as Assets of Community Value, the Save Our Station Pub campaign group requested to be treated as a potential buyer for both sites, triggering a six-month period during which community groups can develop a business case and raise the money needed.
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On Saturday, the group launched a share scheme with the aim of raising £300,000 towards buying the two sites and creating a non-profit community pub.
Members of the community can pledge to buy £50 shares - with a minimum £250 investment - between now and July 4.
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A spokesman said: "Collecting pledges enables us to demonstrate some of the monies available.
"We need to prove we can raise the funds we need. Funds will be raised through shares, commercial loans and grants.
"Let's ensure that on July 4 we are celebrating our own independence day with a strong bid for the pub, giving the community every opportunity to bring The Station back into the heart of Knebworth."
If the bid is successful, the pub will be run by a steering group made up of shareholders.
Knebworth Parish Council is also preparing a bid to buy The Station and proposes to let it to a commercial operator.
A spokesman said: "Having more viable offers may lower the risk of the pub being redeveloped into accomodation in the future.
"It's an alternative option in the event the SOS Pub group fails in its ambitions."
The council says its business plan has already had interest from potential tenants.
It intends to apply to central government for a low interest long-term loan of up to £500,000, with the rent paying off the loan.
The spokesman said: "Residents should not expect a precept rate increase in their council tax," but warned of a future risk of a precept rise to cover costs "in the unlikely event" a tenant cannot be found.
For more information about SOS Pub's share plan, or to pledge your interest, email firstname.lastname@example.org