At the end of 2014, the owners of the Cross Inn received outline planning consent to build 2 houses on the pub garden. The pub had become noticeably quieter over the previous 6 months and this decline continued. In March 2015, the parish council, with support from Tendring CAMRA, obtained an Asset of Community Value registration from Tendring District Council.
This recent legislation, part of the Localism Act 2011, means “Parish Councils and community groups can nominate a public or private asset to be registered on the Assets of Community Value register giving communities the opportunity to collate a bid for an asset, should it be disposed of on the open market.” A couple of months later the Cross Inn closed and was put up for sale as a development opportunity, and that’s the point where the Asset of Community Value registration kicked in. The local community had 6 weeks to register its intention to bid, so that’s what we did. We formed “Save The Bromley Cross”, obtained the necessary local signatures, filled in the paperwork and registered our intention with Tendring District Council. That gave us 6 months to raise the funds to make a bid. There is no obligation of the owner to accept an offer from a community group, but there was only one way to find out.
We followed the guidelines from the Plunkett Foundation, a group which helps rural community groups with this sort of project, and even received a small bursary to help with our costs. We also received great help and advice from the group that saved the Plunkett Foundation, in Bentley, Suffolk. They went through a similar process 2 years ago and now have a thriving village pub. In June 2015 we undertook a village survey (using this questionnaire), to determine the level of local support for a community pub, post office and shop. The results were very encouraging – from 150 completed questionnaires, two-thirds of people thought a village pub was either important or very important. You can see a summary of the results in this presentation.
Nearly 100 people turned up at the subsequent public meeting, and a show of hands at the end demonstrated nearly unanimous support for the project, with many people saying they would offer financial support under the right terms. The public meeting also generated valuable publicity on BBC Radio Essex (listen to recording here). WIth this level of support, Save The Bromley Cross felt we had to proceed with the purchase of the pub to create our community hub.
A hardcore of about 20 people, with support from a much wider group and the Plunkett Foundation setup and registered a company, The Great Bromley Cross Pub Community Benefit Society Ltd. A Community Benefit Society is a type of not-for-profit business, which must exist for the benefit of the community and is owned by the community. We paid for a commercial valuation of the pub and based on this made an offer for the pub and garden, as a public house. We made it clear we would not be developing the garden. Our offer was not accepted, and we were told that the owners were holding out for the full asking price, £395,000, since they saw the pub as a residential development opportunity. The Cross is not worth anywhere near this sort of a money as a pub, and Save The Bromley Cross is not interested in buying a development opportunity. Sadly at the start of November 2015 the Post Office, which was situated in a room at the back of the pub, was closed – another terrible loss for our village.
The Asset of Community Value moratorium ended on November 6th and within a few weeks the pub had been sold to a property developer.
With no short term prospect of buying the pub, Save The Bromley Cross returned to being a campaign group. We lobbied the district council and publicised the loss of another village pub, as you can see in the local press and on BBC Radio Essex. And Save The Bromley Cross continued to organise Pop Up Pubs. These not only raise funds for the campaign, but spread the word and remind people of the benefit of local pubs.
In March 2016, the new owner of the Cross Inn contacted Save the Bromley Cross. He had sold the garden to a local builder and was interested in developing the car park. Fortunately, we were able to convince him that it would be better kept as a pub car park, and we made an offer to buy the pub and car park, which he accepted. So, then we had a new challenge – £210,000 to save The Bromley Cross. We launched a share issue and, with help from 150 or so shareholders, we raised the money and bought the pub.
Since then, the building has been completely refurbished and several improvements made. We added an extension, which includes a “radar key” accessible disabled toilet, available for use by both our customers and the public alike, 7 days a week all year round. We have a coffee morning every Wednesday between 10am and noon, during which we have outreach public library and Post Office facilities. We also host other community activities likes the local Friendship Club, a “come and play” music night, a craft club, darts teams and twice-yearly village litterpicks. Th premises also provide a defibrillator in case of emergencies.
The Pub was run initially entirely by volunteers, but in 2018, we appointed Amanda Lucas as the pub Manager to oversee the day-to-day running of The Cross. We still depend very highly on our crew of volunteer bar staff and, if you would like to join them, please click on the Volunteer and Rotas tab.