CALLING all residents of Nether Poppleton: your village pub needs YOU.

The Lord Nelson, on Main Street, has been an inn for centuries.

According to locals, it was built in the 17th century, served as a makeshift hospital during the Battle of Marston Moor, and was pressed into action as an air raid shelter in World War Two.

Originally called the Cross Keys, it was renamed the Lord Nelson after the Napoleonic wars, to commemorate the great naval hero who lost his life at Trafalgar.

Now, however, Enterprise Inns who own it want to sell up. The company informed the city council of this in March - prompting fears that Nether Poppleton could lose its only remaining pub.

Alan Park, a 38-year-old civil servant who lives in Nether Poppleton and regards the pub as his local, says there was a real worry that the Nelson could close, going the way of the village's other pub, The Fox, and countless pubs up and down the country.

York Press:

Locals gather outside the Lord Nelson, Nether Poppleton

It is a familiar story - but one which the people of Nether Poppleton weren't going to accept without a fight.

Locals managed to get the pub declared an Asset of Community Value, giving them a six months stay of execution on the sale.

Then plans began to formulate to buy the pub outright on behalf of the community.

More than 100 people turned up to a packed parish council meeting in June, following which a 'community benefit society' was set up. On September 26, it launched a 'share offer' - inviting people to pledge to buy shares in the society at £1 a time so as to raise money to buy the pub. There's a minimum purchase of 100 shares, and a maximum of 100,000.

Alan, now the benefit society's vice chairman, admits it isn't entirely clear yet how much Enterprise Inns would want for the pub - that would depend on how much of the land that goes with it was also sold.

But the 'share opportunity guide' that has been delivered to thousands of local homes suggests that to make a competitive offer, the society would need to raise at least £300,000.

York Press:

The Lord Nelson share launch at the Poppleton tithe barn

So far, more than 70 people have pledged a total figure that is getting towards the £100,000 mark, Alan says.

That still leaves some way to go - hence today's rallying cry. But Alan is confident it can be done. "We believe we can put a decent bid in and get a community pub," he says.

But why on earth would local people want to club together to buy a pub which Enterprise Inns clearly regards as not particularly profitable?

Because then it would belong to the community, Alan says - and local people could make it into exactly the kind of pub they want.

The Nelson is a weathered building of whitewashed stone that you reach via steps cut into the high grass verge of Main Street.

There are still two pubs - The White Horse and the Lord Collingwood - in neighbouring Upper Poppleton, and a nearby Premier Inn. But since the closure of The Fox there are no other traditional pubs in Nether Poppleton. Upper Poppleton is a 20 minute walk away, Alan points out: too far for many of Nether Poppleton's older residents.

Besides which, having its own pub gives Nether Poppleton an identity of its own. Main Street is beautiful, Alan says. "But if the pub were to close, what would it be the main street of?"

York Press:

The Lord Nelson

There have been a succession of temporary landlords at The Nelson in the last couple of years, as Enterprise have wound things down. And the pub suffers from a lack of investment, Alan says: the loos aren't great, and the wallpaper is past its best.

But the most recent landlords - who have only been there a few weeks - are doing their best to make a go of it, cooking fresh food, and making it a cheerful place again.

"Enterprise don't see it as a viable pub," Alan says. "But with a bit of TLC it can be a busy pub again."

The great thing is that, if it were to be bought by locals, it could be exactly the kind of pub they want, he says.

There could be a great children's play area in the garden for a start. There could be a farmer's market on the land attached to the pub - or a beer festival. "Poppleton already has one - but why couldn't we have two?"

It could be a daytime meeting place for locals; a micro-brewery; a pizza parlour selling wood-fired pizzas in the garden - or much, much more.

"It's right by the river - you could do day trips up the river from York, stopping off for a pint." OK, so there's no jetty, he says. "But we could negotiate with the parish council for a jetty on the river...

"A lot of people say 'the pub is dying, nobody goes there any more'. But if the community buys it, there would be lots of potential."

But only if the community bands together to buy it.

Locals have until October 22 to sign up and pledge to buy a minimum of 100 shares for £100 - though if they're close by that time, that deadline can be pushed back a bit, Alan says.

The key thing is to take action now. The fear is that if the pub is sold to a developer, it could be lost for good as a community local: like so many other pubs in towns and villages across the country.

"We want people a year from now to be thinking 'great, I'm so pleased we bought it' rather than 'I wish we'd bought it!" Alan says.

BLOB To find out more about community plans to by the Lord Nelson, or to make a pledge to buy shares, visit

The fine print of the community's plans

The Nether Poppleton community benefit society has given itself until October 22 to raise the money it needs to buy the Lord Nelson, although if it is close to its target by then, this deadline can be extended.

Local people are being invited to pledge to buy between 100 and 100,000 shares at £1 each, and become members of the community benefit society. You don't have to live in Nether Poppleton to be able to buy shares: the offer is open to anyone interested in helping to save the pub.

If enough money is raised to buy the pub (and possibly the land that goes with it), a first annual meeting would be held at which the community benefit society would elect a new management committee. Each member would have one vote, no matter how many shares they held.

As owners of the property, society members would be able to decide - on a one-member one-vote basis - the kind of pub they wanted it to be. "By owning the pub, the Community can run it, free of tie, reducing overheads and increasing choice. The pub can be anything the community wants it to be," the share opportunity leaflet says.

But the members would not be involved in the day-to-day running of the pub. The management committee would appoint a landlord to do that.

"Leasing the pub to someone who is going to run their own business rather than simply employing a manager is more likely to succeed," the leaflet says.

The idea would be for the pub to be profitable. No interest would be paid on shares in the first year, but in subsequent years the society would aim to return interest of at least 2 per cent a year to members.

Members would not be able to sell their shares on, but would be able to sell them back to the community benefit society.

The aim would be to run the pub for the benefit of the community. If at any point in future the benefit society was to sell the pub, members would receive their initial investment back, and anything left over would be used for a chartable purpose to benefit he community.

Other successful community pubs

There are many examples of locals banding together to take over the running of threatened local pubs. York has the Golden Ball, the 'community co-operative' pub in the heart of Bishophill.

That's a bit different, however, Alan Park says. The co-op running the Ball has the leasehold only. In Nether Poppleton the plan is to buy the freehold - so the community would own the pub outright. Enterprise aren't interested in just selling the leasehold, Alan says - only the freehold.

There are examples elsewhere of such a model working, however. The George and Dragon pub at Hudswell in Richmondshire closed in 2008. But locals banded together to form the Hudswell Community Pub Ltd, and raised the £200,000 needed to buy the pub and the land it stood on. It was this year named CAMRA's national Pub of the Year.

The Plunkett Foundation, which helps rural communities set up local co-operatives to run services and which has advised Nether Poppleton on its community ownership bid, says the village is following in the footsteps of 53 other local communities across the country where co-operative pubs have been set up.

"The local pub very often provides a vital social hub for rural communities, and with more pubs facing closure, the co-operative pub model is tried and tested," a spokesperson for the foundation said.

"Pubs that are saved through community ownership tend to be so much more than a pub and offer additional services and activities in their community that bring people together to tackle loneliness and social isolation.”

Statement from Enterprise Inns

Enterprise Inns released the following statement:

“As part of our on-going business, we do from time to time identify a pub that may no longer have a future in our estate. After careful consideration, the decision was made to sell the freehold of the Lord Nelson, Poppleton and we are in contact with a number of interested parties, as well as in discussion with the local community group in relation to their interest.”