Harpley’s pub revived after village campaign

A historic village pub has re-opened to grateful punters after a defiant community effort helped prevent its redevelopment.

The 17th-century Rose and Crown in Harpley, near Fakenham, closed in November 2009 and property developers Hobden Oppenlander submitted plans to build two houses within its grounds.

Opponents said the scheme would have deprived the pub of its beer garden and a third of its parking spaces, while fears were expressed the development could threaten the viability of the business and could lead to its permanent closure.

Villagers opposed the application and 295 petitions slips were handed in to planners – a figure which represented 97pc of the 305 people on the parish's electoral register.

The planning application was eventually refused by West Norfolk Council, forcing the developers to abandon the plan and sell the pub.

To the delight of villagers, it has now been renovated and re-opened as a traditional drinking, meeting and eating venue by new owners Ian Rix and his Harpley-born partner Amanda Rowe.

The couple said they were thrilled to be operating in the social heart of the village whose community spirit they hailed as 'amazing'.

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Ms Rowe, 39, said: 'For me, it is about coming home. I had fond memories of the village and the villagers but I took a big risk coming back because it was not necessarily going to be the same after 30 years – but it is. If anything it is 10 times better. To be running this pub as the main hub of this amazing community... I couldn't ask for more.

'When we started working on the pub they offered to come and clean and sweep the chimney, and one couple with a cottage down the road even offered us a place to live. It is such a close community.'

The pub has been given a rustic 'shabby chic' decor which she hopes will add to its welcome.

The couple said the Rose and Crown had always been one of their favourite dining spots before the opportunity arose to buy it. It still offers a home-cooked menu but Mr Rix, 51, is determined to ensure it offers as much to social drinkers as to diners.

He said: 'You go to so many places now where the first thing people say is not 'hello' – it's 'would you like to book a table? I think we have got the right recipe because the response from the village has been amazing. I have never lived anywhere like it.'

When the ongoing renovations are complete, Mr Rix hopes to convert an outbuilding into a farm shop.

Adam Case, chairman of Harpley Parish Council, said the revival of the pub was vital in a village which had already lost several shops and its post office.

'Without places like this to meet up, the village as a community breaks down,' he said.

'There was an organised and orchestrated campaign by people who were passionate about the pub. The borough council does not want to see a pub shut down if the community is behind it, so by showing that support we have helped their decision.'

chris.hill@archant.co.uk