The Red Lion has been serving the rural village of Derrington since the start of the last century and is one of the community’s few remaining services, following the loss of the village shop and other local pubs.
Popular landlord Damien Rawlinson returned to the helm last month, following an online campaign by locals to get him back after his departure last year. He was due to sign a five-year tenancy deal with pub company Enterprise this month.
But uncertainty surrounds the Red Lion’s future, and residents have learned that a developer wishes to build 10 homes on the site. The pub was put up for sale last year, shortly after it was registered with Stafford Borough Council as a community asset.
The status gave the community a six month window to raise funds to buy the pub, but they were unable to meet the £250,000 asking price. It was later reduced to £195,000.
Mr Rawlinson, 28, and his regulars are now battling to keep their pub open. He said that takings have increased since his return and he has reintroduced pub meals, as well as a meal delivery service for residents unable to make it to the pub.
Mr Rawlinson, originally from Telford, also hopes to introduce a village “vending machine” on the site, which would stock essential groceries and be open to villagers 24 hours a day. He said: “Nobody knows what is happening, there is no communication from anybody.
“Derrington has already lost its shop and there are so many houses for sale. If you take the pub out of the village there is nothing to move here for – it will devalue houses.
“I have never been made to feel more welcome than I have in Derrington. It comes down to Enterprise now to see it as a profitable pub in the future and give it the chance it needs.”
Villager Mike Twitchen said the pub is also used by Doxey residents, who lost both their village pubs in recent years. “There is a social club in Derrington but it doesn’t open all the time. It would be another asset gone and Derrington would be a village without any amenities – just a dormitory,” he added.
The pub is also popular with visiting cyclists and customers who drive in from Stafford, and if it closed the nearest alternative would be the Hollybush in Seighford, almost three miles away,
Mr Rawlinson said. Jeanette Curtis, who has lived in the village for over 30 years, said: “The Red Lion is the heart of the community and has always been very popular. We lost the shop, we don’t want to lose the pub as well.”
The Newsletter contacted Enterprise Inns but no-one was available for comment.
Last week the Newsletter reported that regulars at Stafford’s Rickerscote Arms were also fighting to save their local from the bulldozers.
Since their campaign began at the start of this month Rickerscote residents have collected more than 600 signatures on a petition to keep the pub open.