Knoydart community secures vital funds to buy Britain’s remotest pub

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There was joy on Knoydart this week with news that enough money had been secured to take forward a community bid for ownership of Britain’s remotest pup.

The Old Forge Community Benefit Society Ltd, established at the beginning of this year by a group of Knoydart residents, has been awarded £508,000 through the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) to support the purchase and redevelopment of the pub.

Jacqui Wallace and Rhona Miller, co-chairpersons of the society’s management committee, said they were delighted that the SLF had chosen to support the community-ownership bid for The Old Forge.

‘This project is of huge importance to Knoydart and we are now in a strong position to make it a reality,’ they said.

After the Old Forge was put up for sale in January by its Belgian owner for the last 10 years, Jean-Pierre Robinet, local residents came together to discuss the possibility of a community buyout, and return the pub to being a hub within the community once more.

The Old Forge pub on Knoydart is up for sale. Photograph: Mark Harris. NO F43 The Old Forge (c) Mark Harris (2)
The Old Forge pub on Knoydart is up for sale. Photograph: Mark Harris.

The group’s structure as a community benefit society ensures that locals and supporters will be in control of the pub’s future, and the businesses operations are defined with community benefit at the forefront.

Profits are reinvested back in to the business and other local projects, not distributed
among shareholder members.

As part of the overall fundraising plan for the project, the group also launched a community share offer last month which attracted so much interest it smashed its minimum fundraising target in record time and closed a week earlier than planned due to the high level of interest.  The share offer secured 91 members who together invested more than £250,000 towards the project.

Davie Newton, management committee member, said the share offer investment, combined with the SLF support, now puts the group in a position to place an offer on the pub.

‘The Old Forge is on the market for offers over £425,000, but that figure does not include the owner’s asking price for goodwill of the business,’ he went on.

‘We are currently working with the owner to undertake an independent valuation of the goodwill, and once this has taken place, we will be able to assess and submit an appropriate offer – £380,000 of the SLF grant is assigned to support acquisition costs.

‘The investment raised from the share offer and other fundraising routes will build our finances up to the level identified in our business plan so that we can buy, manage, maintain and develop the pub into the future.’

The remaining funds received within the Land Fund grant are assigned to supporting associated purchase costs, essential repairs, and employing a project officer for 18 months to oversee physical redevelopments and look at business development projects.

Local residents on Knoydart are hoping the community will soon be the new owners of the Old Forge pub. Photograph: Mark Harris.

And Mr Newton added: ‘In the last six weeks we have made huge strides in securing the necessary funding for this project, but we aren’t there yet.

‘We have submitted an application to the Community Ownership Fund which, if successful, could support goodwill and redevelopment costs, and we will be launching a crowdfund campaign shortly which will be the final piece of the puzzle in our fundraising plan.’