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Village community must raise £300K by Christmas to save its pub

For immediate release - 28 November 2022

‘A month to save heart of our village'

Community needs to raise £300,000 by Christmas to buy village pub

The residents of the small village of Bethersden*, near Tenterden in Kent, are hoping Christmas will come early this year as they try to raise £300,000 in the next four weeks to help buy their historic and popular pub, The George, and re-open it as a community enterprise**.

Leading the fundraising challenge is a Community Share Offer, devised by local action group The George Community, which started its campaign to save the pub almost 18 months ago after the 17thcentury Free House - described by residents as ‘the heart of the village' - closed during the pandemic and the building was put up for sale.

The new urgency is driven by the fact that a valuable Community Ownership matched-funding grant from the Government is only available until the end of the year. The race is therefore on to find the necessary cash before Christmas so that contracts can be exchanged on the sale.

George Community share offer launch

Local residents, former customers and anyone who wants to support the survival of pubs as valuable community assets or who might have dreamed of part-owning a pub but without the full financial responsibility, are being invited to buy single or multiple shares in The George.

The scheme requires a minimum investment of £500, which is the nominal value of one share, up to a maximum purchase of 80 shares. There will, however, be a ‘one member, one vote' approach to ensure that all shareholders have an equal and democratic say in the running of the pub.

Share investment will not only attract 30 per cent tax relief under the Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) scheme*** but will also earn future interest of up to 5% or 2% above base rate, ideally paid in the form of a till tab to help encourage continued custom at the pub. Net profits will be ploughed back into the pub to fund its further development for the benefit of the whole community.

George Community Prospectus & beer glass

The share certificates will also have their own unique value as they have been personally designed and drawn by celebrated actor, artist and Bethersden resident Anna Calder-Marshall.

The share offer was launched to a packed meeting in Bethersden Village Hall, where there was standing room only to hear members of The George Community founding executive team outline their fully audited business plan.

The business plan for The George has the backing of the Plunkett Foundation (which supports community enterprises), Ashford Borough Council, Bethersden Parish Council, the Bethersden Charitable Trust and Ashford MP Damian Green who has personally supported the initiative from the start. Co-operatives UK, which provided vital start-up grant funding last year, has already committed to make an actual investment of £25,000.

"We know this is a huge challenge - particularly at the present time," said Robin Draper, Chairman of The George Community, "but this is our one and only shot to save the heart of our village and ensure it can play a full part in maintaining the community spirit and community care that Bethersden has always been known for."

George Community Secretary Alex Withington added: "We've been extremely heartened by the ongoing support we've experienced so far - not only as we worked towards securing an agreement to purchase the pub but at all the pop-up pub events that we've been organising every few months to keep The George front of mind with the community. If that support translates into share purchases then there's no question that we can get there. Then our next goal will be completing necessary repairs and refurbishments so that we can re-open the pub - even if that's in a very limited way to begin with - before St George's Day 2023."

A professional and audited prospectus has been published which gives full details of the share scheme and business plan, including a five-year financial plan for the pub once it has reopened. Together with an application form, this is available to download from the George Community website -

Members of the public who would like to support the campaign without buying shares, can contribute through The George Community's Crowdfunding account:

Photo caption 1:A packed village hall for the launch of the George Community share offer with members of the Steering Committee in the foreground: (left to right) Alex Withington, Joanne Brannan, Roger Kelly, Robin Draper, Michele Sadler.

Photo caption 2: The George Community's branded beer glasses have been sold at its pop-up events to not only bring in revenue but to keep the pub front of mind while the pub is closed.


For further information, interviews and filming/photography please contact:-
Alison Miles -  Mobile: 07900 691116

Notes to editors:-
*Small as it is, Bethersden was named as one of the best villages in the South East by the Times newspaper in 2021.

** The concept of community ownership has proved very successful for other at-risk UK pubs.  Although still a relatively new concept, according to CAMRA there are approximately 150 community-owned pubs in the UK; so far these pubs have one of the best business survival rates anywhere in the world with only one UK closure recorded.

***Through the company structure as a Community Benefit Society, community investors are eligible for 30% tax relief through SITR, subject to confirmation by HMRC. Once the share offer is complete, all documentation will be submitted to HMRC. Once approved, HMRC will supply a tax certificate to prove tax relief status, which can then be supplied to investors to include with their tax return. The process is expected to take around 6 months.

About The George Community

Following closure of The George pub in Bethersden in 2020, local residents came together to form the "George Community" to purchase, re-open and protect the pub as a village asset.On 11 July 2021 the group applied to the FCA to form the Community Benefit Society and The George Community Limited became a legal entity on 2 August 2021. The group is led by a steering committee comprising local residents and business people: Chair: Robin Draper; Secretary: Alex Withington; Treasurer: Roger Kelly; Marketing Co-ordinator: Joanne Brannan; Events: Michele Sadler