As one community buy-out bid fails, another moves forward

Yarnton pulls out of buy-out bid for the Red Lion, but the White Horse in Stonesfield moves forward

A bid to bring the Red Lion in Yarnton, between Oxford and Woodstock, into community ownership has apparently failed. With an Asset of Community Value order expiring this week, the way is now clear for a pub company or another interested party to acquire the closed pub from Admiral Taverns.

Meanwhile, just a few miles away at Stonesfield, near Woodstock, villagers have finally succeeded in buying the White Horse. They first raised the asking price a couple of years ago but the owner declined to sell, raising fears that redevelopment was planned.

A statement put out by the steering group of Yarnton Community Benefit Society on October 14 reads: “We embarked on this mission through a community share offer, aiming to reach a minimum sum of £260,000. These funds were pivotal in placing an offer with Admiral Taverns and making our dream a reality. However, despite the enthusiasm and trust that many of you have shown, we managed to raise only £10,050 from 49 shares.

The community buy-out failed, but the Red Lion is set to remain as a pub

“Given the circumstances, it is with disappointment that we, the steering group, have decided to withdraw from the acquisition of the Red Lion. This decision, not taken lightly, comes with the realisation that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders involved.

“In these trying times, the spirit and dedication of our community have never been clearer. Your support has demonstrated the robust unity and shared aspirations we hold for our beloved Yarnton. We move forward, albeit in a different direction than initially envisioned, with continued dedication to fostering community and preserving our unique local character.

“Current information from Admiral Taverns indicates another buyer, once the ACV has ended. We hope the new owners will continue its legacy as a community pub.”

Another factor in its withdrawal is the failure to secure Government funding to match the amount raised by the share offer, valuing the pub at £520,000. It also raised money through fundraising efforts which will be spent on other projects in the village.

But there’s better news in Stonesfield, where the White Horse has already started running “pop-up pub” sessions in advance of full re-opening next year, complete with local beers (Little Ox IPA) and sometimes breakfast.

Announcing that the buy-out bid had succeeded last month, Steve Callaghan, Chair of the committee of Stonesfield Community Pub, wrote: “There is some fundamental repair and upgrading work required for the building and grounds, and beyond this we’ll be finalising and sharing with you our options for maximising the potential of the pub.

Persistence finally paid off for the villagers of Stonesfield, who are getting their pub back

“How ambitious these options are will depend on a number of factors, not least the availability of further funding. We’ll also welcome your donations of time, experience, practical and professional skills to help us in the many aspects of refurbishment that will be needed. Once again, a huge thank you for your local, national and international help in making this long-awaited milestone possible.”

It becomes the 10th Community-Owned pub in Oxfordshire, a trend which started exactly 10 years ago at the Bull Inn in Great Milton and the Seven Stars in Marsh Baldon. The Bull recently moved into private ownership but the Seven Stars has stuck to its guns, despite two changes of management in the last few years.