Villagers campaigning to save an old inn have been awarded a £330,000 government grant to help them buy and refurbish it as a community-owned pub, bistro and coffee shop.
Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young announced the Community Ownership Fund grant this week for the Henry Jenkins Inn at Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, which has been the subject of a long battle by local residents to save it from redevelopment.
The application for the funding was submitted by Andy Taylor, treasurer of Henry Jenkins Community Pub Ltd (HJCP), the resident-controlled company trying to buy the pub. He said:
“We burned the midnight oil to get our Community Ownership Fund application in shape and I’m enormously proud that we’ve been selected for grant approval.
“There is a lot to do, including raising the funds pledged by our membership, but this vote of confidence from the government will get some real impetus behind the campaign to restore the Henry Jenkins as a much-loved community asset in the village.”
The £330,000 grant is understood to be dependent on 20% match funding, meaning that HJCP needs to come up with £66,000 in order to access it.
The chair of HJCP, Richard Sadler, said:
“We’re delighted that the minister and the Community Ownership Fund team have recognised that we’ve put forward a realistic and properly costed business plan for the purchase and refurbishment of this important local asset. Together with more than £200,000 worth of pledged community shares from local people, this puts us in a strong position to do something exceptional.
“We’re convinced that the revival of this historic building as a community-owned facility can make a huge difference to our village by creating an exciting new social space, bringing people together and helping to kick-start the regeneration of the local economy.”
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The Henry Jenkins opened in the 1700s but closed in 2011 and was bought by current owner David Fielder the following year. At the instigation of local residents, it was first listed by Harrogate Borough Council as an asset of community value in 2017. However, in 2018 the listing on the eastern annexe was removed by the council, when it was sold to Mr Fielder’s business associate, Justin Claybourn.
Since then, the owners and campaigners have been at loggerheads, with Mr Fielder rejecting six purchase offers from the HJCP group and refusing permission for a site survey. Mr Claybourn once even told HJCP that he would not sell to them “at any time or any price”.
Happy to sell
But Mr Fielder told the Stray Ferret today he’d be willing to sell the pub immediately, for the right price. He said:
“I’d be happy to sell. It’s up to them to call in the pledges, and then we’ll sell – for either £250,000 for the pub or £500,000 for the whole site including the house next door.
“It’s stood empty since 2012, so it’d be nice to see it put to proper use.”
Mr Sadler would not be drawn on how much HJCP would be willing to pay, but said:
“We remain open to discussions with Mr Fielder, but we won’t entertain the idea of buying at above market price, and we insist on being able to have a survey and structural assessment carried out before negotiations begin, so that we can calculate exactly what the refurbishment costs would be.
“The owner has allowed the pub to fall into a dilapidated state, he’s stripped out the interior, the roof has started to fall in, and the beer garden is completely overgrown. Through our local ward councillor, we have begun preliminary discussions with North Yorkshire Council over a proposed compulsory purchase order to break the deadlock and secure the Henry Jenkins for future generations.
“We would like to make clear that we still regard compulsory purchase as a last resort. We are always open to discussions with the owner over purchase of the site but we will only pay a fair market price and so would need his permission for a proper valuation and structural survey.”
Mr Fielder, who lives near Selby, bought his first pub in 1987 and has since amassed a broad property portfolio, which includes 18 pubs across North and West Yorkshire, industrial estates, farms, residential properties and student lets.
Despite being prepared to sell the Henry Jenkins, he said he feared what impact its refurbishment might have on other local businesses. He said:
“God knows what effect it’ll have on the Queens Head and the Mechanics’ Institute. There’s no way a village like Kirkby Malzeard can sustain three licensed premises plus an off-licence. That’s a fact, and I’ll be proved right.
“There’s a lot of people struggling at the moment, so I think they might have difficulties collecting all the pledges. But that’s their problem, not mine.
“If they can come up with the money, that’d be fantastic, but if they can’t then there’s no story, I’m afraid.”
The Henry Jenkins is named after a Yorkshire supercentenarian from Ellerton-on-Swale – 20 miles north of Kirkby Malzeard – who was said to have been 169 years old when he died in 1670.