The number of British pubs has been declining since the 1980’s as a result of a number of factors including Government legislation including the Beer Orders which changed the market conditions for pub ownership, rising business rates and changing consumer habits with people drinking less or at home. During 2017, CAMRA, the Campaign to Protect Real Ale, claimed that 18 pubs were closing every week across the UK.
Although community pubs have been around for a while, the movement took a leap forward in 2003, following The Old Crown opening in the Cumbrian village of Hesket Newmarket and their dedication to help other communities do the same. Together, they, Plunkett Foundation and many other advisers have been working with large numbers of communities exploring community ownership of pubs. The introduction of the Localism Act in 2011, allowed communities to register pubs as Assets of Community Value, giving them greater planning protection against possible demolition or conversion uses. With considerable promotion by CAMRA, more than 1,250 communities registered their local as an ACV under community rights, helping communities get prepared in the event of it coming on the market for sale.
In March 2016, Plunkett with partners (CAMRA, Pub is the Hub, Locality, Co-operative Mutual Solutions, Co-operative & Community Finance, and Key Fund) launched a dedicated programme called More than a Pub, offering end-to-end support and a finance package of bursaries, loans and grants. This programme was funded by Power to Change Trust and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and ran until March 2019. Now in its second phase, the project has supported 175 groups with action planning support, 114 groups with specialist support, awarded over 100 bursaries, with 23 groups awarded a loan and grant.
And as for today the community pub sector is not only thriving, it is bucking wider negative industry trends. Almost a quarter of privately-owned pubs has shut down since 2008, but community pubs have a 100% success rate. A major new funding programme from Power to Change has been announced to help communities seeking to save their local pub through community ownership.