With help from Cumbria Business Growth Hub, The Lowther Arms Community Project in Mawbray has raised over £240,000 in shares and donations to keep their village inn alive and turn it into a Cumbrian community-owned pub.
Located on the Solway coast, the Lowther Arms has been operating since at least 1847 and offers panoramic views to cyclists, ramblers, visitors, and locals. There is also a functioning caravan and campsite attached. The pub closed in December 2018 and was put up for sale with the possibility of development into houses.
In May 2019, local residents became aware of a planning application to ‘Change the Use’ of the licensed premises into a dwelling and came together to see if they could save the pub through a community buy-out. In July 2019, the group were accepted onto the Plunkett Foundation’s ‘More Than A Pub’ programme and later received a £2,500 grant to help with project running costs.
In March 2020, the group became legally incorporated as the ‘Lowther Arms Community Project Limited’ (LACP), a Community Benefit Society, in order to raise money to buy the pub through the sale of community shares.
Spokespeople for the project, Christopher Atkinson and Vivienne Coleman say they’ve both been working at home full-time during Covid and trying to work on the project as well. A business owner herself, Vivienne had received help and attended courses through Cumbria Business Growth Hub in the past.
In September 2020, LACP was awarded an £80,000 matched grant and loan package through the Plunkett Foundation and Key Fund, which helps rural communities take control of issues through community ownership. Research shows that the community business model is very successful in setting the foundation for rural recovery.
Due to Covid, funding and support programmes were put on hold. Shortly after the share issue launched, LACP discovered the Community Shares Booster Programme had re-opened, and were fortunate to be awarded £100,000 in share equity.
The Community Shares Booster programme is run by the Community Shares Unit, a joint initiative through organisations; Co-operatives UK and Locality, and is funded through Power to change, an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses.
“We later applied to the Growth Hub for help with marketing to businesses. We lack capacity in our group as we are such a small village.” Needing to market more effectively their community case to businesses, and attract new investors, they were put in touch with Growth Hub adviser Claire Louise Chapman of The Shared Value Business in September of this year.
“With Claire Louise’s help, we were able to put together a sponsorship package to put forward to businesses and she was fantastic. Not all businesses may be able to buy community shares but could provide support in other ways such as equipment, skills, and sponsorship. LACP offers sponsorship deals of £2,000, £5,000 and £10,000.
Christopher said: “Claire Louise’s intervention has been really helpful; she’s helped us think about new audiences and different ways of selling. Also, she’s focused on the social impact of what we’re doing which is so important to our purpose and funders.”
“She’s been very useful not only thinking about engagement but thinking about what we want to do, and how to do it.”
A minimum of £250,000 is needed to buy the pub by end of December 2020 when the planning application is due to be reviewed. This money will cover associated basic costs and allow them to re-open the pub.
Vivienne said: “the maximum of £300,000 will enable us to put in place the extra services to make it more than a pub and provide much-needed additional income streams.” Shares will continue to be sold and funds raised into the New Year, allowing crucial facilities such as an essential shop, courier collection point and café counter to be installed. The extra money raised can also help the pub become more Covid-compliant.
They are currently in the ‘pre-start’ phase of Cumbria Business Growth Hub’s Business Start Up Support (BSUS) programme. BSUS offers free support through a mix of one to one adviser time, a business start-up course and other free training to any thinking of starting their own business. The programme also supports young businesses in their first three years of trading with similar support and access to a part funded subsidy.
To find out more about the help you can receive through Cumbria Business Growth Hub, please visit here, or call a member of our team on 0844 257 84 50.
To donate to The Lowther Arms Community Project, or if you believe your business would benefit from sponsoring this co-operative organisation, please find out more by visiting here.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Sellafield Ltd., Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council, Penrith Industrial BID and Cumbria LEP. The Growth Hub and is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.