VILLAGERS have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy their local pub – but still had their offer turned down.

Campaigners hoping to rescue the dilapidated Crown pub in South Moreton announced this week that they had reached their target of £230,000.

Shares priced at £50 each have been sold to 112 shareholders, strengthening the three-year campaign to reopen the pub which had previously been earmarked for housing.

Paul Jackson, chairman of the South Moreton Community Benefit Society (SMCBS), said: “This is a fantastic response by the local community.

“We are all excited as this is the springboard we need to apply for grants, which we hope will make up the balance of the funds needed to buy and renovate The Crown as a community hub.”

But it has also been revealed that an offer of £365,000 to buy the last remaining pub in South Moreton from Worthmore Investments Ltd was turned down last month.

The developer, which bought the pub from brewer Wadworth for £340,000 in 2015, said another potential buyer has offered £450,000.

It comes after the the campaigners won a court battle last year to get the pub listed as an ‘asset of community value’, giving them an exclusive right-to-buy – but only within a limited time period.

That period ran out at the start of April, opening the door for offers from other potential buyers.

Parish councillor and campaigner Tristram Kendall said the group were still unclear about what would happen next.

He added: “I can’t see how so much value could have been added to the pub when it has just sat there empty for three years.

“There is a lack of pubs in this area in general and houses are being built left right and centre so it’s becoming even more important to have somewhere for the community to meet.”

The campaign had previously estimated that it needed £530,000 to purchase the pub and pay for renovations.

A surveyor specialising in licensed properties valued the property at £390,000 based on an external survey.

Internal issues including a leaking roof and plumbing problems have since been identified leading to the decreased offer which SMCBS still hope may be accepted.