Village bids for pub as community facility

Residents of Bloxham planning to buy and run the Red Lion
Residents of Bloxham planning to buy and run the Red Lion

Overwhelming support for a village’s plan to turn an empty pub into a community meeting place has taken a step forward with leaders putting in an offer to buy the property.

Bloxham residents quickly got behind a plan to buy up the Red Lion, situated in the heart of the village. Donations and pledges of finance rolled in and now the group has approached London-based brewery Fullers with an offer to buy.

Colin Challenger, chairman of the group’s steering committee, said: “Fullers paid £455,000 for the Red Lion in 2001.

“This was at a time when the pub was well run with an excellent restaurant, high turnover and attractive decor.

“The decline in rural public house values and the fact that the house has been closed for almost six months and is now semi-derelict means its value has more than halved.

“Further, Fullers enjoyed 12 years during which they charged substantial rents to a series of tenants and, in addition, enjoyed profits from the onsite sale of Fullers’ products.

“The brewery has therefore taken substantial profits from the village already and should be prepared to sell to the community at a price which is reasonable for a closed-down house that has already fallen into serious disrepair.”

The villagers say if Fullers accepts their offer they have catering consultants and contractors ready to move in and transform the building .

Their intention is to create a comfortable and inviting village centre pub within weeks, offering budget and gourmet meals and other community facilities.

However, costs are likely to be substantial. A survey has revealed serious structural and conversion issues which will be expensive to remedy. The quest by the village for funds and support is continuing.

A questionnaire showed the local population felt overwhelmingly that Fullers should welcome the community’s purchase of the pub.