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How the power of a community has saved a Gussage All Saints pub

PUBLISHED: 11:15 12 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:15 12 May 2016

The villagers celebrate the saving of the Drovers Inn

The villagers celebrate the saving of the Drovers Inn

Archant

Sally Marlow, Secretary of the Gussage Community Benefit Society, reveals how the collective power of a local community has triumphed in saving their village pub

Like many of Dorset’s rural communities the beautiful conservation village of Gussage All Saints has lost many vital services over the years. When our only pub, the Drovers Inn, was suddenly closed in November 2014 we faced losing the heart and soul of our village and surrounding area. Instead of welcoming a new landlord, we faced a planning application seeking to develop the site.

What happened next is a testament to the drive and determination of a dedicated group of people, from all backgrounds, working together for a common cause. I hope our story will help inspire other communities who face a similar journey.

The local community quickly came together at an open meeting, in a packed village hall, and unanimously decided to fight to save the pub. We created an Action Group steering committee and nominated the pub as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). ACV status can also protect community facilities before they come under threat. The Campaign for Real Ale (camra.org.uk) is a good source of information as is Locality (locality.org.uk) which offers guidance as ACV legislation is still fairly new for local authorities.

It was important for us to gage the impact of the pub’s closure on the community and assess the level of support for community funding as a way to save the pub. A research questionnaire was sent to all residents and from this we put together the business plan for our community enterprise.

Regular communication was used to rally support and we quickly established a newsletter, website, Facebook and Twitter presence. Local media helped spread the news, and regular open meetings and events boosted support and raised funds for the campaign from far and wide.

In April 2015 the Gussage Community Benefit Society (GCBS) was formed to raise funds for the purchase and refurbishment of the pub as a community enterprise, prior to letting it to a professional tenant responsible for running the operational business. Industry professionals and community support organisations provided valuable guidance for the business plan and share offer launched in May 2015. The Plunkett Foundation (plunkett.co.uk), a charity which helps rural communities to set up and run community enterprises, provided advice and a bursary to help establish the GCBS, and Cranborne Chase AONB provided further financial support via the Sustainable Development Fund.

In June 2015 the planning application to develop the site was successfully defeated due to the viability of the GCBS business case combined with over 200 planning objections.

It took 15 months of hard work by the nine-member steering committee with huge support from enthusiastic campaigners and volunteers. Their wide range of skills and experience has been essential, and we used an informal buddy system to tackle each new challenge along the really steep learning curve.

To date the Society has 154 Community Shareholders who have collectively invested £160,000 in community shares. The purchase of the Drovers Inn for the community was completed on 11 March 2016. Refurbishment, by an enthusiastic army of volunteers, is well underway and our aim is to open in early June when we will all raise a glass to Gussage All Saints indomitable community spirit.

Support the Drovers Inn

If you would like to support us the Share Offer in our community pub remains open via our website at droversinngussage.com and we have a refurbishment fund for smaller donations at localgiving.org/charity/gussageallsaints.


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