Rishi Sunak has backed Swaledale villagers who want to buy and run their local pub as a community hub.
The MP visited Muker to hear about the local group’s plans to buy the Farmers Arms.
The pub has been for sale for more than two years and the current owner is prepared to sell to the community group.
The Muker Community Pub group intends to raise money for the purchase by a share offer and apply for match funding from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund – a £150m fund which helps communities take ownership of assets at risk of closure.
Mr Sunak is supporting the group’s application to the fund in his role as the local MP.
At a gathering held in Muker Public Hall, Mr Sunak told the group’s supporters he was excited to hear of their plans.
He said he had created the Community Ownership Fund in his time as Chancellor to enable communities safeguard assets such as a local pubs, community centres, leisure facilities and green spaces.
“When I set up the fund I very much had in mind places just like Muker and giving them help to own and run community assets like the Farmers Arms,” he said.
“The village pub is so important in a rural area – not just economically in terms of providing employment – but in bringing people together and providing a focus for a strong community.”
Justin Jupp, secretary to the Community Pub group’s board, said plans for the community purchase of the Farmers Arms were on track.
Public meetings and a village questionnaire had demonstrated widespread support for the project and the first stage in applying for a Community Ownership Fund grant had been successful. Next steps included preparing a comprehensive business plan for the venture and seeking pledges from those wishing to purchase shares.
Mr Jupp said Mr Sunak’s visit to the remote Dales community had been a significant boost for the initiative.
“His passion for the idea of community ownership of the pub was clear in his speech to us in the hall and it is great to have his support for what we are trying to do.”
More information about the Muker pub project can be found on the group’s Facebook page.