A group of local residents in Nunhead has become the first in the country to use the Community Right to Bid to save their pub and bring it into community ownership.
The Ivy House in Nunhead is a well-loved South London local, with a splendid 1930s interior and a place in music history, with acts including Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer having played on its stage.
But in April 2012, the owner of the Ivy House pub, Enterprise Inns, announced it was selling off the pub.
Nunhead resident Tessa Blunden, a solicitor, was a regular visitor to the Ivy House, and held her wedding party there a few years ago.
On the day Tessa heard that the Ivy House was closing she went there after work to see what was going on.
Tessa said: “Turns out a lot of people had had the same idea. There were about 80 people in there when I arrived.
“As I had a notepad and a pen, I started collecting people’s email addresses for a mailing list.”
This mailing list grew into a group who were determined to save the pub.
Tessa is one of the five-strong steering group, including a chartered surveyor and a town planner, with day jobs formidably well-suited to the task of rescuing the Ivy House.
However, the community purchase of an inner London property was not straightforward, even for such a team.
The campaign to save the Ivy House began well, with their facebook page gaining over a thousand likes, the local paper reporting on their plans, and the local MP getting involved. English Heritage gave the pub a Grade II listing for its rare 1930s interior.
But in October 2012 Enterprise Inns sold the Ivy House at auction to a businessman, who almost immediately put it back on the market for £750,000, with plans to turn the pub into flats.
Tessa said: “We knew the Localism Act had just come into force, so with help from the Peckham Society and advice from Locality, we applied to Southwark Council to list the Ivy House as an asset of community value. It was certainly the first asset Southwark had listed, and quite possibly the first asset to be listed in the whole country”.
The council listed the pub in the nick of time to prevent it going back to auction.
The Right to Bid gave the Save the Ivy House campaign a moratorium period of six months to raise the money and buy the pub if they could.
Raising a sum of over £750,000 in six months was a daunting prospect. Luckily the team’s dedication and hard work paid off when the Architectural Heritage Fund stepped in and announced it would offer them a loan of £500,000 for the purchase, plus a £50,000 working capital loan for start-up costs.
At the start of March 2013 the group purchased the Ivy House for £810,000, with funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and others.
Once the Ivy House was bought, it was opened up to a community share issue scheme, which meant people could buy a part share in the pub to help run it and keep it open in the long term.
The Plunkett Foundation gave them business support, legal advice and help with the community share issue. Offering community shares in the pub has provided working capital and given local people a financial stake in the enterprise.
The Ivy House exceeded their target of £100,000, raising an impressive £142,600 from 371 shareholders.
The Ivy House, soon to London’s first co-operative pub, will open later this summer.
For free support on the Right to Bid and all the Community Rights go to www.mycommunityrights.org.uk
Image by Ewan Munro via Creative Commons