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Villagers bid to buy Bluebell Inn as community asset for Helpston, near Stamford and Peterborough





Momentum is gathering behind a community’s bid to buy and secure the future of their last remaining pub.

Villagers in Helpston formed a group in January to try and take on the Bluebell Inn as a community asset.

Tony Henthorn was approached to head up a bid to buy the 18th-Century pub for the community after it went on the market late last November for £850,000.

A community meeting to gauge support for buying the pub drew lots of interest
A community meeting to gauge support for buying the pub drew lots of interest

A seven-strong steering group is in negotiations with the pub’s owner over the asking price and intend to raise money through a community share scheme and grant funding.

They are looking to generate around £300,000 from shares, with just over half of that sum already pledged.

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“We are taking pledges which is what we will be focussing on and also applying for grant funding so we’ve got a busy couple of months ahead,” said Tony, who has published the local community magazine for the last 25 years and is treasurer for Helpston Village Hall.

The Bluebell Inn dates back to the 1700s and once boasted renowned poet John Clare as a neighbour. Photo: Google
The Bluebell Inn dates back to the 1700s and once boasted renowned poet John Clare as a neighbour. Photo: Google

“We are getting closer. We are working together trying to come up with solutions and to negotiate a deal that works for everybody.

“I would be spending villagers’ money so I have to make sure they are getting a decent deal.”

The village once had eight pubs and the bid to secure the future of its only remaining watering hole has had an encouraging response.

The group commissioned this painting of the Bluebell by Deeping artist Peter Scott, aka The Wonky Artist
The group commissioned this painting of the Bluebell by Deeping artist Peter Scott, aka The Wonky Artist

The Bluebell, which remains open and is being sold as a going concern, is one of its oldest.

It boasts renowned poet John Clare as a former neighbour, having grown up next door in the late 18th Century in one of the neighbouring pair of cottages.

A survey on the group website https://ourbluebellpub.co.uk/ - where pledges can be made - generated 153 responses, while more than 120 residents turned up to show their support at a follow-up meeting.

A further two-day consultation event was held on March 16 and 17.

The move is also being supported by the Plunkett Foundation charity which helps groups in rural areas set up and run community-owned businesses.

“Pubs are closing every day, but these Plunkett-supported community pubs have a 98 per cent success rate after five years, so in terms of a model for a community pub, that’s brilliant,” Tony added.

“And they become more inclusive. They are not just about selling beer and doing food. It actually stretches beyond that to become a hub such as maybe a warm space for the elderly, a hot desking scenario for small businesses.

“So there will be an element of taking the blinkers off, but without losing its good traditional pub ethos.”

As a community asset pub, all future profits would be reinvested back into the village, helping amenities such as the village hall and primary school.

Also: Village to get its pub backIt is hoped this could help broaden the Bluebell’s appeal.

“It’s well used, but we believe we can make it even better used as a community hub,” Tony said.

“Helpston has had a lot of change and development over the last six years. I would say a lot of the new houses are for young families and I think that’s an element that the pub doesn’t appeal to at the moment, but it could.

“We think we could tweak it with the support of the community and make it into a successful venture.”



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