A village campaign to save a popular community pub could end in success after the owners have agreed to enter in to talks with residents.

The Rocklands White Hart Association made an offer of £230,000 for the freehold of the White Hart pub.

The offer was originally refused, and residents were looking for other ways to save the pub, garden and former bowls green.

Rocklands. But, just last week, committee members were surprised when the owners agreed to discuss future plans.

Now, hopes depend on the willingness of villagers and the wider community to offer financial support.

Harrold Neale, chairman of Rocklands White Hart Association, said: 'If we're not open for Christmas I will be devastated.

'It's been dreadful not having a pub. When it was open, my wife and I didn't go to other pubs.'

The pub has been closed since October 2010, and in 2011 was put up for sale, but with no offers the owners had considered converting the building into a house.

With help from the Plunkett Foundation, an organisation which has helped 15 other communities buy their local pubs, Rockland All Saints hopes to save the pub and add it to its community-owned buildings – including the church hall, sports hall and bus shelter.

The committee will put together a formal prospectus which they will send first to people who have already pledged to donate money towards the purchase of the pub, and then to those that haven't.

The owners need confirmation of their financial position after the beginning of July. With an ambitious time scale, the villagers are planning to start instructing their lawyers soon.

Mr Neale said: 'I will be very happy and relieved when we've saved it and it's in community hands.

'The whole community will need a pat on the back – I will be standing at the door shaking the hands of the people coming in to enjoy it again.'

Mr Neale said since the pub's closure, other businesses in the village have been suffering with the drop in passing trade.

He added: 'There are 700 people in our village.

'People are going to want to go to the pub they own.'

If the offer is accepted, anyone will be welcome to buy shares in the pub for between £250 and £20,000, which, like a cooperative, would allow them one vote in decision-making. Subscriptions would include a 30pc tax relief.

'Before the pub closed we didn't have to go anywhere else,' said Mr Neale.

'We could walk to the pub – if you have to drive you have to be very careful. This is the last pub in the village – once this goes there will be no community hub.'

For more information or to make a pledge, contact 01953 747787 or email localslocal@gmail.com