Bloxham villagers hope to buy Red Lion pub

The Oxford Times: Roaring trade: Colin Challenger, with the other members of Bloxham Red Lion Steering Group, in front of the pub Buy this photo » Roaring trade: Colin Challenger, with the other members of Bloxham Red Lion Steering Group, in front of the pub

VILLAGERS have used new laws to put on hold the sale of a closed pub so they can put a bid together.

Bloxham Parish Council has won Cherwell District Council permission to delay any sale of The Red Lion, one of three pubs in the village. The pub closed in August and is now boarded up and on the market by brewery Fuller’s.

Neighbours say they have more than £100,000 pledged towards the £400,000 asking price.

The district council has registered the pub as an “asset of community value”, part of the Localism Act 2011.

This means it cannot be sold within six weeks, and the residents have until February 17, to tell the council they want to bid.

If this is the case, the parish council will have a further six months to put a bid together, though the final decision rests with Fuller’s.

Colin Challenger, a pub regular for 25 years who is helping put together the bid, said Bloxham once had seven pubs but now has only The Joiners Arms and Elephant and Castle.

The barrister said: “The Red Lion is the best site. It is on the main road and it has a big car park.”

Fuller’s has invited offers around £400,000 for a pub but £800,000 for a house, he said. The firm would not give any figures to the Oxford Mail.

He said: “The village can’t pay anything other than a fair commercial price for the premises as a pub, otherwise our community venture would go bust.”

Villagers have formed an industrial and provident society to which more than 100 people have pledged more than £100,000, he said.

Nicole Hamilton said she has seen communities save pubs using the laws in her role as an officer at Woodstock’s The Plunkett Foundation, which supports voluntary groups. She added: “I know it can be done but it’s up to the community, not something one person can do.”

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The 39-year-old said: “It’s important we keep our village thriving. We can let one asset go and before we know it it will be another and another and another.”

More than 150 people who attended a meeting at Jubilee Hall on the plans on Sunday showed support, said solicitor Brian Auld, 54. A cafe, restaurant and bakery at the site are among options along with the pub, he said.

A Fuller’s spokesman said:“We don’t like losing pubs, but every now and again we find our options limited. In this case, we’ve made the difficult decision to close the pub.

“Having tried to seek a permanent tenant for some time, we have now decided to dispose of the property – either as a pub or as a site for redevelopment. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We are happy to discuss the options and costs with other interested parties.”

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