Chedburgh is a Suffolk village of just over 300 households, not far from Bury St. Edmunds. We have a village hall and a church, but we have no school, no shop, no cafe and now....no pub! Our only pub, The Marquis Cornwallis, was bought by a property developer in March 2016, and closed in October 2016. It is listed as an Asset of Community Value, but the owner has ripped out the interior and put it up for sale at a high price. He has twice sought planning permission to change the use of the pub to a private house. He has split up the asset by transferring ownership of the green land and car park to a former business partner, who also intends to build on the land. We are not happy and we want our pub back!
We asked our community if they wanted us to try and save our pub, and 99 of 100 households said yes! We have formed a Community Benefit Society, called Chedburgh Marquis Community Hub (CMCH). There are 10 people on our Management Committee, all volunteers, and 9 of whom live in Chedburgh. We range in age from late 20's to early 70s - a mix of men and women. We include a retired planning officer, a retired lawyer, a bid writer, two accountants, someone who works in marketing, someone with experience of community projects, three mums, and many other hidden talents, but we have all come together to save our local pub. We have held several public meetings and write regular updates for our facebook page and parish magazine to keep residents updated on our progress with the campaign. Our community is behind us, and together, we have already made a difference - successfully fighting off two planning applications for change of use, so far.
The Marquis Cornwallis has been here for at least 175 years, as a focal point of the community. It was an enlisting station at the start of the First World War, and the place where the pilots of RAF Chedburgh came to unwind during the Second World war. The Marquis has been a thriving pub, in a great position, close to the main road between Bury St. Edmunds and Haverhill, and is fondly remembered by many residents for its RAF reunions and Bonfire Night celebrations.
But more than its history, a pub is the heart of a village. It keeps all the people connected and enables us to meet neighbours we might otherwise not cross paths with in our busy lives. It's a place to go when you're in need of a listening ear, or some help because your fence has blown down, when you want to celebrate, or somewhere good to take your friends or family for a drink or a meal. When you need to warm up (or cool off), walking the dog, or take a break on your cycle ride. It could be our place!
We have taken advice from the Plunkett Foundation, who support community-run pubs and shops. We have written a Business Plan and a Share Prospectus. We intend to buy the Marquis Cornwallis, and the green land and car park across the road, on the community's behalf, renovate it and then open it as a pub and community hub. The overall integrity of the building is good (we have had a structural survey done), but the floor, ceiling and bar were removed by the current owner before he put it up for sale, so work must be done before we can open the pub. We will be seeking a tenant to live in the pub and run it as their business, paying rent to CHCH so that we can maintain the building and pay any loans or mortgage. We have lots of ideas for how we can make the Marquis a really useful village centre, including a coffee shop, small grocery shop, pop up cinema, art gallery, mobile post office, Amazon drop-off point, and more! As phase 2, we hope to convert the existing barn to the right of the pub into a separate community shop.
In order to achieve all this, we need to raise the money to buy the pub and land from the current owners, so we have launched our Community Share Issue, with the shares priced at an accessible £50. We are offering community shares in CMCH, following the principle of "one member, one vote", so that all shareholders, no matter how many shares they own, can have an equal say in the future direction of CMCH and the pub at General Meetings. We have made a solid start at fundraising, having already raised £24,400 so far offline, but now we are really ramping up our efforts to achieve our initial goal of £100,000. This is why we have set our target at £75,000.
1) All of these plans can only happen if we own the pub, so we need money to buy it! You can help by buying some shares! Or simply make a donation, if you prefer, but community shares will really make you a part of the project. Check out our rewards! Maybe you already have a few shares, but could now afford some more?
2) You can volunteer your help with the refurbishment. Lots of lovely people have already come forward, some of them skilled tradespeople, others bringing a pair of hands and much enthusiasm, Time and materials are gratefully received - please get in touch! 3) Tell everyone you know about us! Share far and wide. We need as many people as possible to buy community shares so that we can save our special old pub for future generations.