Campaigners face a race against time to raise £300,000 to secure the future of a village pub.
More than 70 people attended the launch on Sunday of fund-raising towards a community bid to buy The Horns Lodge at Chailey.
Residents took out an Asset of Community Value order on the historic hostelry in 2017 and have now set up a limited company to bid for the pub when it comes up at auction on March 20.
The target is to raise £300k before that date. If successful, campaigners intend to refurbish the pub and reopen it as an asset at the heart of the village community.
They are selling £1 shares in the company and asking people to provide loans of a minimum of £250. Should the company fail to raise enough money to buy the pub all shares and loans will be refunded in full.
There is concern locally that developers may seek to buy the venue and use the land for housing.
Horns Lodge Chailey Ltd has won the support of local MP Maria Caulfield, who said: “It is such a shame to think that The Horns Lodge could be lost to housing development which would have a negative impact on the community in Chailey. It is great that residents are not just sitting back to allow this to happen but are taking positive action to help buy their local pub and keep it open.
“In Westminster I am working with colleagues to help local pubs by cutting beer duty and helping with business rates, so it would be a real shame to see this pub go. I am more than happy to support Horns Lodge Chailey and would encourage those who can to look at buying shares.”
The award-winning pub, at South Street on the A275, is going under the auctioneer’s gavel on the instructions of Joint Receivers Simon Lowes and David Oprey.
It is among 134 lots in the auction being held by Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers.
The lot is being offered at Clive Emson’s Sussex and Surrey regional sale in Brighton on Wednesday, March 20, with a freehold guide price of £250,000 to £275,000.
Believed to date back 300 years, The Horns Lodge was named Country Pub of the Year five times in succession by the local branch of CAMRA between 2011 and 2015 but it closed at the end of last year.
Auctioneer Richard Payne said: “This is an excellent opportunity to acquire a freehold public house for use as an existing business.
He added: “It is also considered there may be future potential for redevelopment of the whole site, subject to all necessary consents being available.”
To find out more visit www.hornslodgechailey.co.uk