Residents join forces in bid to buy village’s last remaining pub

Villagers at Frisby are joining forces to keep their last remaining pub open by buying it for the community.

By Nick Rennie
Monday, 13th September 2021, 12:54 pm
Some of the local people working on, and supporting, the compulsory purchase of The Bell Inn at Frisby on the Wreake EMN-210913-124939001
Some of the local people working on, and supporting, the compulsory purchase of The Bell Inn at Frisby on the Wreake EMN-210913-124939001

The Bell Inn, which dates back to the mid-19th century, was once one of three pubs in the village but the others - The Star and the Coach House Inn - have long since closed down.

When the landlord decided to put it up for sale in March, locals were desperate to retain it as a vital amenity so they set into motion a campaign to buy it themselves.

Eight volunteers set up The Bell Inn Frisby Community Group Committee, headed by resident Tony Bird, and a survey was sent to everyone living in Frisby and nearby Rotherby about their views on how important the pub was to them.

The committee was ‘genuinely surprised’ at the widespread level of support to keep the pub open shown in that initial survey.

The feedback showed that 98 per cent of respondents felt it was a vital local amenity and subsequent donations from villagers amounting to £9,000 are being used to pay the cost of bringing in professionals, to complete surveys and to give advice and support for a community owned business.

A deal has now been struck on the price, subject to contract, and villagers will be invited to buy shares in the pub in order to make the purchase possible, with the target date for pulling the first pint being December 10.

Gayna Johnson, a member of The Bell Inn Frisby Community Group Committee and a Frisby resident since 1984, said the pub, which is not currently open, was an important focal point at the heart of the village and losing it along with the recent loss of the direct bus service meant locals could be isolated, particularly older people.

Gayna told the Melton Times: “We as a committee feel there is more we can do than just offer a simple pub if it’s owned by the community.

“We would be looking to convert the conservatory at the back, which in recent years has not been particularly well used, into a welcoming community cafe which would offer extra services to people in the village.”

The group is aiming to raise between £200,000 and £300,000 towards the cost of the purchase and work on the property through selling shares and has also applied to a government Community Ownership Fund (COF) grant scheme for matched funding for a similar sum.

They have strong written support for this application at all local political levels, from MP, Alicia Kearns, Leicestershire County Council, Melton Borough Council and Frisby Parish council.

Councillor Ronan Browne, representative for Frisby on the Wreake ward on the borough council, commented: “We as a council have been impressed with the speed at which local people have worked to save the pub. It just shows the level of support there is to keep it going for the community.”

Local vicar, the Rev David Harknett, priest-in-charge for the Parish of the Upper Wreake, is also backing the campaign for the community purchase of the pub, which he said was as important to a rural community as amenities such as a church and a village hall.

More than half of the respondents to the community survey showed a willingness to invest in The Bell Inn and the drafting of a share prospectus is underway.

The share offer, which should be available next month, will be open to everyone who wants to be involved, not just those in the immediate Frisby and Rotherby community.

A drop-in session is being organised at Frisby Village Hall on Saturday, September 18, with a short presentation repeated at 11am, noon and 1pm to give details on the community purchase and provide an opportunity to chat with committee members.

Email Tony Bird on [email protected] to get more information or to request a copy of the share prospectus when it is released.