'Strong opposition' to application to change pub into holiday lets

Five Bells Inn in Upwell. 

Five Bells Inn in Upwell. - Credit: Google

Owners of a west Norfolk pub which has been "declining in profitability" over the years will challenge an asset of community value (ACV) application.

The change of use of Five Bells Inn in Upwell, which is currently closed, has been met with "strong opposition" from the local community after its owners submitted a planning application to West Norfolk Council to turn the public house to a nine-bedroom holiday let.

A statement on behalf of Christopher Robinson and James Brighty said following refurbishment in 2018 it had failed to make a profit and that they decided to close in March 2020 following "substantial losses" of more than £30,000 in 2019 combined with other factors such as Covid-19 restrictions.

Planning applications have been made for 26 new homes in Upwell. Picture: Ian Burt

Planning applications have been made for 26 new homes in Upwell. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Upwell Parish Council told WNC although it did not want to see the facility closed it wanted to express the "strong opposition from a significant number of local residents" to the change of use.

It said: "The pub is situated at the heart of the village, has been on the same site for more than 250 years and attracts and promotes significant traffic from the waterway running through the village."

It said it was keen to support the idea of retaining it as a working public house and inn but recognises the "apparent financial challenges the pub has suffered."

Grahame Seaton, who lives in Upwell, told WNC that the community is looking into applying for the pub to be designated an ACV and that he understood there to be an interested party willing to run it as a pub or restaurant.

Police said the car had entered the river near the Five Bells pub at Upwell, near Downham Market Pi

Five Bells Inn located in the village of Upwell. - Credit: Archant

But in response, the applicant's agent told WNC that they would be challenging the ACV and agreed to an extension of time on the application to May 31.

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The council said that it had not been provided with "sufficient evidence" that it is not viable to retain as a community facility use and that while it may not have been profitable under the current management it may be under "other proprietors or there may be alternative community uses for that building."

WNC received 209 comments on its online planning portal, with 123 objecting and 83 supporting.