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Ex-police boss bowls in to save village pub near Shrewsbury

By Lucy Todman | Pontesbury | Entertainment | Published:

A former police and crime commissioner has stepped in to save a country pub for the local community.

Roger Houston, Mal Brown, Bill Longmore, Ursula Longmore and Sylvia Grant outside The Cock Inn

Bill Longmore, who stood down from his policing role with West Mercia Police last year, has spent more than £300,000 buying The Cock Inn in Hanwood, near Shrewsbury.

As chairman of the village’s bowling club, which has its greens at the rear of the pub, Bill and his wife Ursula decided the time had come to do something for the community when the final landlord pulled the last pint earlier this year.

Built in 1860, the pub had been the focus of the village but over the years it became less popular.

Punch Taverns decided to sell the pub off earlier this year and that is when the Longmores stepped in. And now Bill, 78, hopes it will become a community hub, complete with coffee bar, cafe and takeaway.

He said: “We were going to lose it and people rallied round and said ‘what can we do?’. I looked into it and the only option was to have it as a community asset.

“Punch Taverns said if we were to make an offer before June they would look at it but we did not have time to raise the money needed to buy it.

“I was concerned about the way communities are going. For places like Hanwood, which has a population of 1,200, to lose the pub would have been very sad.

“The community has a very successful bowling club which has nine teams. The club has been around since 1925 and it would have been a disaster for the village if the pub went.

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“We decided the only way forward was to buy the pub and then form a company called the Great Hanwood Community Interest Company.

“My wife and I decided to put the money into the company and we have now signed the contract to buy the pub and we expect to get the keys later this month.

“We have little family and we decided that it would be nice to be able to leave something for the village. It will be a big asset going forward. The Community Interest Company is not for private gain and any profits made will be spent for the good of the village. We must accept that Shropshire Council will not have the money to put in to local communities. If we do not do something the villages will die.

"This needs to be a success and will give Hanwood several thousand pounds a year which can go back in to the community. That is a great blueprint of how we can keep a village alive.”

He explained that the pub would be run by volunteers and catering students from local college, adding: “I know where we want to go with this and the direction we will take. It is going to take time to get the right people in place.”

“When I stepped down as commissioner I said I would not be doing anything anymore. But I can not stand by and let the community lose this. I realise the value of life and wanted to put as much in as I could. I want people to have something when I am gone. There is no reason why this can not become very successful and show how a community can develop and be safe and happy places to live.”

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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