Many of you will have seen recent updates on the Parish Council’s intention to seek the purchase of the Hop Pole Inn (‘the Inn) and the supporting questionnaire, but I thought I would provide some more detail here.
This note is lengthy and has some detail in it. If read fully, it will I hope answer your key questions. At this stage it does not answer all of the detail about opening times, menu choices, interior design issues, parking solutions or similar questions. However, we recognise that those are real issues for the future and the questionnaire – see below andhttps://limpleystoke.org/) provides an initial opportunity for feedback on just those sorts of things – so please respond! 😊
This purchase is a somewhat complex venture that is taking considerable time to bring to fruition so I ask that you bear with us as we drive the initiative forward. I will try to post regular updates on activity, but as many of us who are engaged with this initiative are currently continuing to work full time; are maintaining the normal outputs of the Parish Council and also supporting our local COVID-19 efforts through the team at LiFERAFT, I’m afraid I can only respond to those who are hungry to hear more on an occasional basis and when time allows.
2. As a bottom line the plan in Stage One is:
We the Parish Council are seeking a PWLB Loan https://pwlb.gov.uk/responsibilities/local-authority-lending to purchase and renovate the Inn. This means the Parish Council as a body (and not as individuals) will own the Inn in perpetuity as a capital asset. The residents of Limpley Stoke will not own the Inn, but as representatives of community interests, the PC, both current and future, will ensure that the Inn is used as an asset of community value for the good of the community. We do not yet know the exact loan period or amount but we do have a working figure that we are keeping on close hold whilst we negotiate a purchase price with the Wellington Pub Company.
We will not be offering shares or seeking alternative funding sources if the loan application is successful. A successful loan application is anticipated to achieve the funding necessary to secure the Inn as a community asset and pay for full renovation. If this changes we will obviously inform the residents as soon as possible and then seek alternative or additional funding lines. We have met and discussed those potential options with the team at the Packhorse in South Stoke already and are aware of the complexity and time required to achieve a community funded purchases.
The Parish Council will not run the pub, nor will we seek volunteers to do so. The pub will be offered at a competitive rate to a tenant landlord who will run it in the normal fashion. That landlord will be guided by the Parish Council on what is established and expected as part of any agreement, but will otherwise be free to run the Inn. A single member of the PC will be a direct point of contact and advisor. This is usually the Chair, but does not have to be.
We have formed a sub-committee of the Parish Council. In addition to the skills provided by the PC members we have been fortunate to gain the support of several members of the community who have varying and really useful skill sets. These skills include but aren’t limited to: architecture and design, surveying, conveyancing, pub/bar operations, website design, supply chain operations, property development and building, business planning, events management and more.
An outline case has been developed. We are now turning that into a full, but suitably focused, business case (max 10 pages) to support our PWLB Loan application.
We are in the process of making an initial offer for the Inn to establish an agreed working sale price (subject to survey). This will be non-committal until we have a loan in place.
We are intending to complete (amongst other things): a full set of surveys (both Condition and Dimensional); a provisional budget; development proposals; planning issues; forecast income; SWOT (completed); market and competitor analysis; provisional budgeting; a Statement of Significance; supplier investigation; landscaping and design; outline renovation costings; opportunities for additional services (to be defined) and a full suite of media and marketing tools to pass on to a future tenant landlord. Not all of these need to be done before the loan application is submitted.
4. What needs to happen:
Community have members have been asked to answer the questionnaire: We recently emailed out and posted a website questionnaire – seehttps://limpleystoke.org/ that I hope you will fill in. Additionally, all residents of Limpley Stoke will soon be receiving a paper copy too, as we know some people aren’t as engaged with social media formats as others. We are also asking the people of Freshford to support this initiative and John Adler the Freshford PC chair has very kindly agreed to advertise the web based questionnaire to the residents there. Question 2 won’t apply of course as they have their own precept. The questionnaire has one direct ‘yes/no’ question and a ‘yes/no/not applicable’ second question that will now allow non-residents to vote in Q1 whilst being able to answer ‘not applicable’ in Q2.
Question 1. Do you support the Parish Council purchasing the Inn as a community asset owned by the Council on behalf of the residents of Limpley Stoke?
Question 2. In the event of unusual circumstances, would you support a temporary increase in your Parish Council Precept payment (Council Tax). This would not exceed an additional £1 per week per household (about £50 per year).
For residents of Limpley Stoke, the second question, as stated in the questionnaire, is founded on the understanding that, and I quote: ‘Normally, the Council will meet loan repayments from the rental made by a tenant landlord. In addition, under normal circumstances we can afford to meet the PWLB loan repayments from reserves and the existing Precept. However, there may be occasions that additional funding is necessary (e.g. COVID 19).’ In simple terms we don’t expect to have to raise the precept but it would be remiss of us to not include the remote possibility in our communication to you.
We need to meet the fundamental conditions needed to secure the Hop Pole Inn:Make an acceptable offer to the Wellington Pub Company for the Inn as a building and going-concern (i.e. as a pub).
Secure community backing – this does not have to be everyone of course but a majority will help!
Secure the funding to purchase the Inn via a PWLB Loan – as opposed to other methods like local fund-raising initiatives that can take months or years to achieve – the timescales do not merit that sort of fund-raising.
PWLB Loan acceptance is driven by a suitable business case and business plan and a demonstration of community support for the purchase.
Once the Inn is secured and funding is established we can pursue the next stages. (Noting that these stages are neither mutually exclusive nor bound by linearity – i.e. some can (and will) be done alongside ongoing core activity in Stage One).
Stage Two: Take those actions outlined in the business case submitted to PWLB and associated business plan – including:Full renovation and fitting out as outlined above.
Secure a tenant landlord.
Help them to establish desirable product lines, services, a media presence and a range of community events (including a fabulous opening party!)
Stage Three: Complete associated activities that create the right environment in which the Hop Pole Inn can be a truly successful and flourishing venture at the centre of the village. These include: Closing Woods Hill to through traffic to and from the A36; solving the over-parking problem in the vicinity of the Inn; establishing appropriate traffic calming measures throughout the village and make crossing the A36 easier in order to allow people to walk more easily and more safely to the pub; investigating even more alternative methods of income generation – including but not limited to: appropriate (Grade2 Listed approved) extension on the back to secure more covers; establishing a micro-brewery in an existing outbuilding (initial conversations are being investigated); opening in the morning as a café and sandwich venue that also provides bookable take-away food options for walkers, cyclists and canal users; increasing the seating at the front of the Inn to allow a more communal and safe space for the village to hold events; using the existing back-room for business or club meetings; ensuring the wi-fi is top quality and so on. The list is of course endless but the achievable options will be finite. They are also subject to what the community wants, what is achievable and what makes the village a better place. Most people who have answered the questionnaire so far don’t want an expensive gastro pub or a dedicated sports bar in Limpley Stoke. The majority seem to want something that serves the community foremost (a traditional pub), but one that also recognizes the need for innovation and ingenuity as key factors in the successful delivery of desirable services for, not only our residents, but also the numerous visitors who make the journey to this beautiful area and village.
5. What next:
If the funding is achieved both innovation and ingenuity will be essential to make this work, but that has to be grounded in the community and serving the needs of that community.Hopefully that’s enough for now. Me and the team will endeavor to keep you all informed of what we are up to over the next weeks and months. There will be plenty of opportunity to add your voice as we move forward but I ask, at this stage, that you offer your support for this great challenge and allow us to drive it forward to a hopefully successful conclusion. In the meantime you can call me for a chat if it helps (07468 461261 – during the week I may take a while to reply but leave a message/mail if I don’t answer straight away) or email me or the team via the ‘Contact Us/Drop Us a Line’ option on the websitehttps://limpleystoke.org/
I wish you all the very best, talk more soon
Limpley Stoke Parish Council
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Well, quite a lot, is the answer to that question! Having been in the Chairman’s seat for six months now, I thought I should update everybody on what’s happened in that time and show that we are being really proactive in our pursuit of a better village.
First, we have expanded our council members to support a two-year plan I proposed in late summer, which is centred around three key themes: Community, Environment and Traffic, all of which support the Freshford and Limpley Stoke Neighbourhood Plan (2014-
Our new membership includes Georgina Taylor (Events); Denise Barnes (Environment) and Ian Barnes (Roads). They join the existing team of Francis Firmstone (Vice-Chairman and Planning), Alan MacDougall (Pathways and Bridleways), Ed Elias (Local Business and Tourism), Nicky Boulton (Freshford Liaison), and our excellent Parish Clerk, Bryony Kohn.
In addition, we have met with our fellow councillors in Freshford and Winsley to ensure we act both coherently and as a joint force on bigger area issues.
To support our Traffic theme, I proposed a new approach to traffic in October and, alongside [Wiltshire Councillor] Johnny Kidney and Francis Firmstone, had meetings with [local MP] Michelle Donelan, Wiltshire Council and Highways England to garner support. Our plans include:
• significantly reducing through-traffic on Woods Hill, which sees over 700 vehicles a day going up and down the hill, often far too quickly;
• coupling that with no parking on lower Woods Hill, and prioritisation and calming of traffic along Lower Stoke by the old station, will allow us to create a village centre in front of the Hop Pole;
• establishing village entrance signs: at Midford Lane from Midford; on the A36 at Midford Lane; at the Lower Stoke viaduct, and on the A36 before Woods Hill from Bath;
• implementing better traffic calming along Midford Lane, Middle Stoke and Crowe Hill/Crowe Lane;
• improving A36 crossings
from Upper to Middle Stoke;
• proposing that Highways England support a 30mph A36 ‘village’ speed limit from Midford Lane to Brassknocker traffic lights and support our request to improve the time allowed to turn right to Winsley.
HOP POLE. Sadly, it appears that Joe Abbott is no longer taking on the pub. It remains a listed Asset of Community Value (ACV) until 2023 but, without a viable landlord proposition, is likely to remain empty. So, action is needed and, if no solution is forthcoming from The Wellington Pub Company early in 2020, we will consider more concrete options to secure the pub’s usage for our village.
“We are being really proactive in our pursuit of a better village”
In our Community and Environment themes we have lots of exciting initiatives and information coming in 2020. As we go forward with real positivity, I want to thank a few people. First, my wife Jo for running the LSPC website and taking a role on the Village Hall Management Committee. And, of course, the Parish Council team who, as volunteers, all strive to make Limpley Stoke a better place to live.
Please take the time to read our Minutes and Actions List (https://limpleystoke.org/parish- council) as we try to be as informative as possible. Do say hello if you see me out and about and feel free to contact me, or any PC member, via our details on the website link above. More news next month.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!
Anthony Gennard, Chairman, Limpley Stoke Parish Council