Campaigners fighting to save their village pub at Rogate have been dealt a bitter blow after being told they will have to raise a massive £500,000 in just over five weeks to buy it.
The White Horse has now been closed for five weeks and Brian Allison, former chairman of the village hall committee together with new chairman Emma Yellop is heading a campaign to get it reopened.
They have already approached Chichester District Council in a bid to have the pub made a community asset.
They have also approached Harvey’s Brewery, which owns The White Horse, to ask if the brewery will sell it to the community.
“We have been told Harvey’s are willing to consider selling the freehold of the pub to our community group,” said Emma, “but the price would be a minimum of £500,000 and we would have to make a firm and final offer by April 30.
“We have also been told there are other interested parties but the brewery will give preference to anyone willing to carry on running it as a pub.”
Emma and Brian are now holding a meeting to go through the figures and work out a plan of action. They are also launching an online ‘crowdfunding’ fundraising campaign.
But she added: “It’s a ludicrous deadline. This is putting a lot of pressure on us to slam this down on the table giving us five weeks to raise the money and sort out the legalities. It is completely unfair.”
The campaign group has the support of CAMRA, the campaign for real ale and more than 600 people have signed a petition calling for the pub to be made a community asset.
“We are very serious about this,” said Emma, “this is not just a pub, it’s about friendship and companionship. The White Horse is the heart of Rogate, that is what is driving me and we want our community pulled back together again.”
Among the campaign supporters is 86-year-old Eric Piper whose grandparents and then parents ran the pub from 1923-1966.
“It’s the focal point of the village,” he said, “all the sports groups meet there and we are very disappointed it is closed at the moment. We would love to see it reopened as a pub.”
For the brewery, estate manager Andrew Christie told the Observer: “We are currently in talks with the community and other interested parties regarding the possible sale of The White Horse with the express wish to keep it as pub. We are also still looking at possible tenants to run the house under the Harvey’s banner.”
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