THE team behind Wiveliscombe’s Brendon Orchards Co-operative has sealed the deal with a loan to match-fund a £70,000 Government grant to help purchase an historic building it had been leasing for the past 10 years.

The group completed the deal last week and will now take ownership of The Greenhouse, in Golden Hill, to secure a long-term future for both the apple pressing co-operative and the building itself, which was part of the iconic former Hancock’s Brewery.

The judging panel which awarded the grant was impressed by the heritage link between using local fruit from Somerset’s orchards and the continued use of the building for making fresh produce and the involvement of the community.

Co-operative chairman Dave Topham said: “We are absolutely delighted that our community-based co-operative now has a secure future that builds on years of hard work by all those involved, now and over the last 10 years.

“It is amazing to be recognised as such as essential local service.”

The Community Ownership Fund grant is designed to help community organisations take ownership of local assets.

Group spokesman Jon Burgess said instead of leasing half the ground floor of the building, the co-operative now owned the whole property, which also housed a number of start-up businesses.

Mr Burgess said: “It is good to have got it done before Christmas and now we can relax, because it has been a bit frantic in the last few months.”

Brendon Orchards makes apple pressing equipment available to members and also runs free juicing sessions for people who only have a few apples.

The group started in 2009 with an apple day which proved so successful that it was repeated the next year and went from strength to strength, formally becoming a co-operative in 2012, when it started to lease a unit in The Greenhouse.

It now has several sets of pressing equipment which this year was used all over Somerset and Devon to juice 30 tonnes of fruit.

More information about the group is available on its website here.