Toppesfield: Community-owned pub is inspiration for others

Mike Perry and Alan Collard with locals at the Green Man in Toppesfield

Mike Perry and Alan Collard with locals at the Green Man in Toppesfield - Credit: Archant

A VILLAGE pub has been singled out as a leading example of community-spirit in action.

The Green Man in Toppesfield, near Sible Hedingham in north Essex, hit the headlines just before Christmas when about 150 villagers clubbed together to raise more than £150,000 to buy it from pub company Admiral Taverns.

And yesterday, representatives of the Plunkett Foundation, an organisation that helps rural communities set up co-operative enterprises, visited the establishment to launch their latest service - a national advice line to help similar communities to save their local pub.

The foundation’s head of communications, Mike Perry, said the Green Man was chosen as a launch venue to inspire other communities at a time when, according to the Campaign for Real Ale, 18 pubs are closing every week around the country.

He said: “When a pub faces closure, communities have three ways of responding: they can accept it will close, wait for someone to come in to buy it, or say ‘we can do this ourselves’.

“It’s important other people see community pubs like the Green Man working. It may require hard work but people will see it’s not a mad idea.”

Plunkett has also launched a website - - to provide access to information and advice, and an online directory of co-operative pubs, of which there are currently 14 across the UK.

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The new service is being funded with a £20,000 grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government,

Minister for Pubs, Brandon Lewis, said: “The local pub is often at the very heart of the community and an important aspect of life for many people. When it closes, many communities feel powerless to save it. The Co-operative Pubs Advice Line will give communities access to a wealth of information and expertise.”

Alan Collard, chairman of the Toppesfield Community Pub, said community ownership of the pub gave villagers more control of the business.

He said: “We estimate Admiral Taverns were taking around £20,000 - £25,000 out of village but now any profits we make we can put into repairs and on-going improvements. The building is under our control and not that of a developer or private owners who have no feel for the village.”

Mr Collard said the pub initiative was inspired by the success of the village shop - Toppesfield Stores - which was established as a community-owned shop more than 10 years ago.

He added: “The shop has been a real success and was even able to give us £3,000 towards buying the pub.”

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