‘Takes us to the next level’ - Campaigners fighting to save community pub toast funding boost
PUBLISHED: 10:36 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:36 08 October 2020
Campaigners fighting to raise funds to buy a community pub raised a glass of champagne to toast a major fundraising award.
Members of the Save the Blue Bell group in Stoke Ferry came together outside the Lynn road pub on Tuesday, October 6, with their banner and champagne glasses held high to celebrate their award of £2,500 seed funding from the Plunkett Foundation’s ‘More than a pub’ programme.
The group are aiming to raise enough money to make a bid for the community pub.
The money will enable them to carry out “preliminary activities” before they make a bid for the premises later this year.
Alan Lury, committee secretary, said: “This seed money will help our community benefit society carry out the necessary work to take our campaign to the next level and make the Blue Bell ring again.”
Campaigners are continuing with their efforts to reopen it as a community-owned pub after it closed in March 2018 following poor trading.
But the owner has submitted another planning application to west Norfolk council to turn it into a residential property after the first application was turned down.
An application report on behalf of Oxygen 56 Limited said the pub has been closed for 30 months and has been unable to get a new tenant since March 2018 despite “advertising widely.”
It said the owners made “very significant offers of financial assistance” to the group including a £100,000 interest free loan.
The statement added: “The lack of activity from this group would indicate it does not have genuine intentions to purchase and reopen the property but was merely set up to frustrate a residential use for the building.
“Whilst the loss of the pub is regrettable, there is no long-term viable future for it to trade.”
But Jim McNeill, member of the group, said there has been “overwhelming support” from villagers wanting to keep the pub open following a survey in August and said the grant was the first step in preparing to put forward a bid.
He added: “We have raised money but it’s been difficult during the Covid restrictions to hold events so this grant is a lifeline.
“If we can agree a price with the owner in principle we will then put in our share offer from the local people.”
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