Offer for shares

After launching our “Offer for shares” at a public meeting in a busy South Stoke Village Hall last night, we are delighted to make available for download a copy of the official document and share application form.

Having recently exchanged contracts with the current owner, we now have a very real opportunity to save this much-loved local institution! The immediate target is to raise £525,000 this summer in order to buy the building. So please read our offer document today then get in touch!

To find out more, including arrangements for electronic payment, simply complete our declaration of interest form.

 

Fundraising begins!

Thank you to all who came to our impromptu event in the village on Saturday!  Quite a crowd turned up at short notice, and four years after the pub served it’s last pint, to hear the news…

…which is that Packhorse Community Pub Limited has secured the opportunity to raise funds from the local community, and interested investors, to purchase the pub.  Contracts have been exchanged with the current owner with completion due in September, subject to a successful fundraising campaign.

The team plans to launch the share prospectus document at a public meeting in South Stoke Village Hall on 28 June, at 7.30pm.  If you may be interested in investing, please complete our declaration of interest form.

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Planning application

So, B&NES have finally received a planning application for change of use of the basement and ground floor of The Packhorse to residential and a related application for listed building consent for the necessary internal and external alterations.

We have until 8 October 2015 to send our comments to B&NES.  Of course, the Save the Packhorse committee will be lodging an objection.  But we’ll do so after analysing carefully the voluminous documentation accompanying the applications and after taking professional advice.  We’ll share some of the main conclusions of that advice here to help others understand the planning considerations involved.

Just one oddity to point out at this stage to avoid confusion – the applicant name is shown as Mr Martin Cherry.  However, we believe this is just a typo on the forms and that these applications are indeed being made on behalf of Mr Martin Sherry, the owner of The Packhorse.  We’ll try and get that minor detail cleared up in due course…

UPDATE: The agent has confirmed to B&NES that these applications ARE from Mr Martin Sherry.

Save the Packhorse Event

On Saturday 16th May between 5.30 and 7.30pm, there will be a bar and musical entertainment on South Stoke village green (or Village Hall if the weather is unkind).

This will be a fun opportunity for all who care about The Packhorse to get together for a drink and a chat, and be updated on the current situation with regard to efforts being made to buy The Packhorse back for the community.

It is important that we demonstrate the strength of feeling in the village, so please show your support by coming along!

Political will

After referring the other day to Westminster’s political will to save rural pubs like ours, it occurred to us to check the local election campaign literature that dropped through the letterboxes of the village recently.

So we were very pleased to find a poster-sized leaflet from our current Liberal Democrat Cllr Neil Butters listing “Reopen Packhorse pub!” as one of his “Six to Fix” actions for his proposed next period in office.

Many thanks for your continued support, Neil!

Our asset of community value

The Packhorse has been on B&NES list of assets of community value now for over two years but two developments this month have made our pub slightly better protected than before.

No quick sale

Firstly, from today, the pub is protected from a quick sale again. It’s listing requires the current owner to notify B&NES should he wish to sell and that allows the community to delay any sale for up to six months while we prepare a bid.

Now, if you’ve been following our story over the years you’ll know that we’ve been down this road before. Eight months after the Packhorse was listed, Mr Sherry notified B&NES of his intention to sell. We duly made an offer and this was rejected. According to the provisions of the Localism Act, having rejected our offer, Mr Sherry could then, within a year, sell the pub to whomever he wished without further delay. He did not do so – in fact he rejected several other recent offers – and that year elapsed today, hence the renewed protection from a quick sale.

Changed planning law

Secondly, on 6 April, a little-reported change in planning law came into force. Briefly, it removes the existing permitted development rights on pubs listed as assets of community value that otherwise would allow their change of use (to, for example, a restaurant, bank or building society, or a shop) without further planning permission.

In practice, Mr Sherry has mentioned many possible uses for the building but never once described it as a shop, office or café, as far as we know. However, this regulation change will now remove any ambiguity: no matter who owns it, this building will remain a pub unless explicit permission is granted by B&NES for change of use.

So?

In short, although we certainly don’t feel the need to put up bunting in the village these are definitely positive developments and indicative of a political will – even in far-off Westminster – to help save community pubs like ours!

No sale

The Packhorse pub in South Stoke has been closed now for nearly two years after being bought by Mr Sherry.  Late last year, his agent informed B&NES that he wished to dispose of the property.  The status of the Packhorse as an Asset of Community Value gave locals the right to delay any sale for six months while we prepared a bid.  That moratorium period ended yesterday without a sale, our bid having been rejected.

The Save the Packhorse committee has been busy:

  • a well-attended public meeting in November gave us confidence to trigger the moratorium
  • we established The Pack Horse South Stoke Ltd as a community co-op to make a bid
  • although we’ve not marketed the opportunity publically, some 125 people have already indicated a willingness to invest a high proportion of the value of the pub (we’re exceedingly grateful to them all)
  • we employed a specialist valuer to report on the Packhorse, we received informal estimates of works from builders, and checked that our business plan was still viable (it is)
  • we made a formal offer at market value for the pub, then waited and waited for the owner to respond – but eventually our offer was rejected several weeks later
  • we have continued to attempt to negotiate with the agent but a sale to us seems unlikely while Mr Sherry appears to hope to sell the pub as a residential property instead.

We’ve been extremely quiet while all this has been going on.  When there was still a slight chance that we might be able to negotiate with Mr Sherry, we decided to avoid any chance of irritating him through our public comments.

With the final rejection of our offer, and an asking price 50+% more than the current market value of the property as a pub, we intend now to become much more vocal and visible.

The terms of the Localism Act allow Mr Sherry a further 12 months to sell the Packhorse, should he choose to do so, to whomever he wants.  If a new owner wants to re-open the pub, we will be delighted.

In any case, the building is still protected by planning law and no application has been made yet for change of use.  B&NES planning policy is to deny change of use of such pubs while they remain viable.  We have accumulated detailed evidence to demonstrate viability.  So we remain as determined as ever to see the Packhorse re-open as a pub for all to enjoy.

There is still everything to play for, so please continue to show your support.  We look forward to the day when we will all meet at the Packhorse for a pint!