beer pumpsRegulars and staff at a popular pub have formed a co-operative to bring the former 18th-century coaching house into community ownership and preserve their local.

The Bell Inn in Bath is on the market for the first time in 25 years, raising concerns over its future.

A share issue has been launched, with help from the Co-operative's Enterprise Hub, with the aim of raising almost £1 million.

Steve Henwood, a member of the team behind the plans, said: "The Bell is a thriving and popular pub and people from all over the country have expressed concern at news of its sale.

"We decided to do something about it and have been delighted with the support and interest received so far.

"Our aim is quite simple really - to encourage the widest possible membership and bring the pub into community ownership, then ensure all the great things that people love about this historic free house continue to go from strength to strength."

There has been a near 10% increase in UK co-operative enterprises over the last two years, rising from 5,450 in 2010 to almost 6,000.

Michael Fairclough, the Co-operative's head of community and co-operative investment, said: "We are witnessing communities across the country, driven by needs other than to maximise profit, turning to co-operatively-owned solutions for the running of businesses and services.

"A well-run pub is an important part of the social fabric of a community and enterprises such as this are showing how by working together, communities can tackle some of the unprecedented challenges currently facing our society, environment and economy."

Communities Minister Don Foster said: "We are determined to help community pubs continue to thrive and grow, that's why we have given local people the power under the Community Right to Bid, to step in and save their local from closure.

"To further support our locals we have doubled small business rate relief for three and a half years, which gives up to 100% rate relief for small firms including pubs. We are also giving local councils new powers to introduce local business rate discounts, which could support pubs which offer community facilities.

"This is on top of abolishing the last Government's cider tax and cutting red tape on live music in pubs.

"The community served by The Bell Inn are showing how local involvement and ambition can be used to safeguard treasured local facilities and I wish them every success."



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