Villagers buy The Hermit Inn at Burley Woodhead and save historic pub from being turned into housing after getting it listed as a protected asset
A group of village residents who campaigned to buy their local pub are celebrating success after the building's owner agreed to accept an offer from them.
The Hermit Inn at Burley Woodhead, near Ilkley, has also now been listed as an Asset of Community Value by Bradford Council - meaning it is protected from adverse development and will remain as a public house.
The decision to sell to the Save the Hermit action group represents a remarkable coup for the fundraisers, as former landlady Gillian Kelly had put the 400-year-old inn up for sale at auction with a suggested minimum bid of £425,000.
She closed the business last year, claiming she was unable to turn a profit due to Covid-19 restrictions. She then submitted a proposal to convert the pub - a one-time haunt of Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley - for residential development, but her application was withdrawn before being assessed by planning officers.
Save the Hermit's members have now registered their ownership as the Burley Woodhead Pub Company and have already begun renovation work - including the removal of a dangerous tree in order to begin restoring the beer garden, which had fallen out of use.
They are seeking a tenant to run the pub and are hoping to attract a talented chef who can serve local produce as well as stock real ales.
Save the Hermit campaign co-ordinator Nicholas Hooper said: "This is brilliant news for the community and for all those people from further afield who have expressed their regret at the loss of the Hermit. The success of our campaign shows that local people can stand in defence of a community asset.
"We are very grateful to all those who have given their support and advice during the campaign - notably Bradford branch of CAMRA, former Otley MP and pub champion Greg Mulholland, Shipley MP Philip Davies, Burley Parish Council, and Menston councillors and residents who have already successfully campaigned for the Malt Shovel to be bought by a local group.
"Above all we want to thank the local residents who set up the Burley Woodhead Pub Company to carry out the purchase. Residents tell me they can’t wait to enjoy a pint of beer or glass of wine in a friendly environment again."
Former Keighley MP John Grogan, who advised the group, said: "Getting the Hermit back under local ownership serving pints and good food is as important for the community and identity of Burley Woodhead as is The Wheatley Arms for nearby Ben Rhydding which was re-opened in 2009 after a similar but longer campaign. Bradford Council has now designated the Hermit as an ACV which strengthens protections for the future."
Work at the site began last week with the felling of the rotten tree - a known hazard for over 20 years - and thinning of foliage which had been allowed to obscure the views over Wharfedale.
Mr Hooper added: "I understand that a lot of work and investment will be needed to prepare the pub to be re-opened and that the kitchen and cellars in particular are in a poor condition. It is going to be a substantial job to get the pub ready. The new owners have exciting plans and are keen to consult with local residents about how best to deliver a traditional Yorkshire country pub the whole community can be proud of."
If you are interested on taking on the management of the pub or wish to make suggestions on its running, visit www.thehermitinn.com.