A community group in Helpston, near Peterborough, is the first to receive a capital grant in a programme being run by Plunkett UK in partnership with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

The Bluebell Inn Community Hub Association has been awarded £45,000 to support its efforts to save the much-loved pub – the last in the village – and help them to address the needs they have identified from engaging with residents.

The group approached Plunkett UK in January for advice and guidance around taking the pub into community ownership. Since then, the charity has offered Helpston bespoke business support around legal structures, business planning and fundraising, as well awarding them a development grant to help with valuing the property and covering legal fees.

Plunkett knows from evaluating its successful More Than A Pub programme that the average success rate for all pub enquiries is 1 in 10 but, when a group has received a small-scale grant and adviser support, this increases to 1 in 3.

The 8th member of our steering group!

Tony Henthorn, Project Lead on The Bluebell Inn Community Hub Association’s steering group, says: “When the last pub in the village was put up for sale, locals were galvanised and started looking into the possibility of buying the Bluebell Inn as a community asset. The first port of call was a conversation with Plunkett UK and very quickly an action plan was created. Plunkett have become the 8th member of our pub steering group!

“We successfully applied for a development grant which enabled us to undertake a professional valuation, conduct a building survey, pay for village consultation venues and create a campaign website. We then successfully applied for further capital funding which will provide £45,000 towards the cost of purchasing the pub, should the Association be successful in its application to the Government’s Community Ownership Fund.

“The team at Plunkett have been an incredible resource and their engagement with the Combined Authority has enabled us to feel confident that we can achieve a successful outcome for our village.”

Support has been possible thanks to funding from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority as part of its Market Towns Programme which aims to revitalise the area’s market towns and rural hinterlands. The community business model is being used to create community hubs that could include retail, cafés, meeting rooms, co-working facilities, allotments, and accessible green spaces, among others.

Fully-funded business support development grants of up to £5,000 and capital grants of up to £45,000 are available through Plunkett until March 2025.

A people-centred project

This builds on the great work we have been doing in supporting the region’s rural areas to remain vibrant and thriving places. The Market Towns Programme is a highly effective and people-centred project that embraces rural locations and focuses on the local community. The grant for Helpston is a fantastic example of the excellent work being delivered through Plunkett UK in providing support to local groups to bring redundant buildings back to life, like village pubs or clubs, and drawing them into community ownership as real community assets once again.”

Domenico Cirillo, Business Programmes & Business Board Manager, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Saving local assets

We know the difference that business support and grants can make to communities working hard to save assets and services. Therefore, we are thrilled to have awarded the first capital grant in the programme to the community in Helpston to help them save their village pub and protect the services it offers local people. Plunkett is very proud to be supporting the Combined Authority in their work to revitalise and build resilience in market towns and villages, and look forward to supporting many more groups in the area over the coming months.”

Susie Middleton, Project Manager, Plunkett UK

Could your community group qualify for our support?

We would love to hear from any community groups in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s market towns and villages who are looking to save an asset that is closed or which is at risk of closure, or who are looking to restore lost services through community ownership.

Call the Community Business Team on 01993 630022 or click the button below to email us, and find out more about the help available.

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