The Blue Bell at Stoke Ferry. Picture: Paul Tibbs

They’ve done it – campaigners are celebrating taking ownership of a village’s last remaining pub.

The Blue Bell at Stoke Ferry now belongs to the community after 17 months of fundraising and negotiations.

And on Saturday there will be celebrations at 2pm at the pub before preparations get underway to transform the empty premises into a community asset.

The purchase was completed on Wednesday after the idea for a community-owned pub was initiated last January following a public meeting which led to the formation of the Save the Blue Bell campaign.

Campaigners wanted to stop the premises from being turned into a residential development and a community benefit company was formed under the name of Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise Ltd.

Campaigners said it had been a “long, hard but inspiring battle” to secure the pub and that they had successfully fought off two planning applications, a planning appeal, a public auction and a last-minute attempt to put the pub back up for sale.

The group also faced the difficulty of Covid restrictions and winter flooding of the pub premises.

The initial £280,000 to buy and refit the pub was raised through investments by more than 400 shareholders, grants from the Plunket Foundation and Stoke Ferry Parish Council, a loan from More Than A Pub, support from local celebrity and actor Stephen Fry, and a series of well supported family fun day events.

Stephen Ward, campaign chairman, said: “Our team has done it. 

“It has been hard work but, with the massive support, involvement and encouragement of our community and supporters, we have managed to bring it off.” 

He thanked everyone for their support and said the next move was for a team of enthusiastic volunteers to give the 200-year-old pub and gardens a new lease of life as a pub/café community hub. 

He said tradespeople, local businesses and suppliers have rallied round to help with their time and equipment. 

Anyone who has a skill, tools or equipment who is able to help is asked to contact the campaign team.

See www.bluebellstokeferry.org for details.