4th December 2022
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, Andy Jolliffe tells Karen Perugini from Thrings how a community rallied to save its local pub from development
On Christmas Day, the villagers of Longparish will raise a festive toast in the pub they own together after a remarkable community effort to save it from developers.
The Plough, dating back to 1721, was trading as a gastropub until rent increases led the chef to walk out, setting off a chain of events that ended with it being closed in 2015, and sold to a developer.
When a planning application was submitted to turn it into homes and apartments, Andy Jolliffe, chairman of the local community association, galvanised his neighbours into action.
“The application was submitted in the May, and by June we had a big public meeting in the village hall,” he remembers. “From there we formed an action group called Plough Ahead, and started looking at how we could save the pub.”
Together, the group defeated the planning application and subsequent appeal and pulled together a business plan to put The Plough into community ownership through a new ‘non-profit’ company, Longparish Community Pub Ltd.
The Parish Council borrowed from central government to help buy the building while money to restore and run the pub was raised through a community share scheme.
Co-ordinated during lockdown, this brought in more than a third of a million pounds from 250 shareholders, most of them Longparish locals.
The community pulled together once more to get the pub ready for opening, with many contributing professional skills ranging from expertise in company law and finance to interior design.
“There was a huge coming together of the village,” says Andy. “We had around 140 people involved in a nine-month project to get it back on its feet, ripping down ceilings, painting and decorating, making curtains, gardening, and much more.”
A second round of fundraising added a further 100 shareholders to pay for improvements including an upgrade to the kitchen. Investors may only sell their stake back to the company or pass them to family members, keeping the business truly based in the community.
Much of the food and drink served is sourced locally, including burgers and sausages from nearby Bere Mill Farm, venison from The Middleton Estate and gin from the River Test Distillery.
The team are commercially aware of the need to bring in customers from further afield and the pub is proving popular with people who visit the Test Valley for walking, fishing, or cycling.
Friday evenings have become a locals night, where villagers meet to eat, drink, and catch up on the week’s events.
Andy proudly describes The Plough as “a community hub, not just a community pub” and offers space for community groups to use.
“On a Friday, or when we have community groups in, it’s so buzzy and busy,” says Andy. “We had a vision of what we could achieve, but never could have imagined the atmosphere this place creates. It has exceeded our wildest dreams.”