Saviours of pub celebrate as transformation is completed

Oxford Mail: David Cameron opens The Swan pub at Ascott-under-Wychwood David Cameron opens The Swan pub at Ascott-under-Wychwood

PRIME Minister David Cameron took a break from discussing floods to reopen a popular pub in West Oxfordshire.

Owners and customers at The Swan in Ascott-under-Wychwood put five years of campaigning, legal disputes and fundraising behind them as they celebrated with the Witney MP last Saturday.

In 2009, the pub’s previous owner decided to close the watering hole, and tried to sell it for housing.

Desperate to protect their only pub, villagers formed a Pub Action Group, and fought for three years to keep the building for the community.

In 2012, Richard Haddon and Michiel Verkoren agreed to reopen the pub, but knew that it would require a complete renovation.

Mr Haddon said: “The roof was leaking, and it needed a complete refurbishment.”

Members of the Pub Action Group and residents agreed to raise the funds required to fix up the building, which saw the main bar reopen in June 2013.

Mr Haddon, 51, said: “They have been amazingly supportive – even to the point that they have volunteered to help us clean up at the end of a night.

“They wanted to be involved, and some of them wanted to assist us financially.

“So we gave out nominal shares in Swan at Ascott Ltd for those who wanted to pay a token gesture.”

Thirty-six people bought shares in the pub, raising around £12,000.

Mr Cameron opened the last room to be completed – a new function room, converted from a disused barn.

Mr Haddon, originally from Kingham, said: “It’s going to be a useful room for all sorts of events around the village.

“There will be a lot of meetings, private dinners, functions, and so on.”

Speaking at the opening, Mr Cameron said: “You’ve all done a great job. Rural pubs so often form the heart of the community.

“That’s why I came all the way back out here to take the French president to a local pub for half a pint earlier this month.

“I wanted to show him that English beer is the best in the world.”

John Cull, who founded the Pub Action Group in 2009, said: “This is our final send-off – we’re celebrating that we have reached the end of this journey.

“It’s really important that you can have somewhere to socialise and unwind in the village.

“We’ve got a shop and so on, but we needed the pub just to make things complete – it’s the final bit.

“It encourages community spirit even more.”

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