Villagers vow to press on with bid to buy flood-hit pub
- Credit: Sarah Hussain
Campaigners working to save their village pub are pushing ahead with plans to buy and renovate it despite a "huge" flood in the premises.
Villagers in Stoke Ferry have said they are still determined to see the Blue Bell Inn reopened after a mains water pipe burst in the roof in February.
The campaign to save the village's last pub, which has been closed for three years as a result of poor trading, was set up a year ago and those behind it have said it has made "fast progress" despite the challenges posed by Covid-19.
People in Stoke Ferry have rallied together by holding fundraising events and investing in shares to raise money to buy it from its current owner Oxygen 56 Ltd.
Following the flood, campaigners are hoping to overcome the "unexpected obstacle" by raising more money, and are also looking for pledges of labour and materials to help with the extra costs caused by the water damage.
Stephen Ward, campaign chairman, said: "The new Blue Bell will not be like any pub the village has seen before. It has a strong mission to serve the entire community.
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"Good food and drink - from coffee and cakes to beer and pies - are of course at the heart of it, but it will be so much more than a pub, offering lunches for the elderly and isolated, a community-run garden, prescription drop-off and pick-up, history archive and events, and so much more."
The group has set up a Community Benefit Society which has sold around £115,000 of community shares and has received financial backing from Plunkett Foundation's More than a Pub scheme.
Alex Powell, property manager at Oxygen 56, said the sale was agreed in December and expected to complete soon, adding that the company will press ahead with "alternative plans" for the site in early summer if the group do not proceed with the purchase.
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Mr Ward said: "We are on the cusp of a huge change for Stoke Ferry and a tiny bit more help in terms of investment or practical support will mean that we can all crack on and make what is bound to be an extraordinary summer a very special one indeed for the village."