Campaign group ‘pressing on’ to save last village pub
PUBLISHED: 17:47 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:16 12 May 2020
A campaign group set up to save a Norfolk village’s last remaining pub is pressing on to secure its future, after its owner submitted an appeal against the refusal to turn it into a house.
Villagers in Stoke Ferry set up the Save the Blue Bell group to campaign against the loss of the Blue Bell Inn, after it closed in March 2018 as a result of poor trading.
It comes after plans to change the use of the pub into private housing were rejected by west Norfolk council last December.
But the applicant has appealed against this decision on the grounds of it being “economically unviable” as a pub and a lack of “genuine purchasers for the property” coming forward.
However the group have said they are “pressing on with work to secure Stoke Ferry’s last pub for the community” and are asking potential investors to get in touch.
Stephen Ward, campaign chairman, said: “Our rough timetable is to complete the purchase of the pub towards the end of this year and open after refurbishment in late spring 2021.
“We need to raise money to buy and renovate the building.
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“We are not asking for binding commitments, because we know that circumstances could change a lot in the coming months.
“The minimum investment is just £50, so we hope that we can make this a true community business. Of course, we will need some larger investments too.”
The campaigners launched a survey in March, which was distributed to every house in Stoke Ferry, to find out what local residents wanted.
It revealed that more than 90pc of respondents felt the village should have a pub with the main reason being for them “to meet up with friends and family” and have a place offering food.
Mr Ward said: “We wanted to understand not only what services a community pub should provide.
“This is really important information as we develop a realistic and sustainable business plan.
“With more than 150 responses, we have opinions from around one-third of all the households in the village. So, we can have a lot of confidence that the survey represents accurately what the village thinks.”
The appeal, submitted on behalf of the applicant, James Collins, has been lodged, and documents say: “The applicant does not believe there are genuine purchasers for the property.
“The applicant has assessed the possibility of other commercial uses for the property but none are viable.”
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