Villagers celebrate pub takeover
During four decades it has been celebrated throughout Broadland and beyond as 'Winkle's wine bar'.
However, the future of a pub regarded by locals and holidaymakers alike as part of the rich tapestry of Norfolk's rural life was thrown into doubt in the past 18 months because of the declining health of 'Winkle' (AKA landlord Ray Norman).
But now the ghastly spectre of homes replacing the White Horse in Upton, near Acle, has been banished with villagers raising the first �100,000 to buy the Chapel Road pub themselves.
With the take-over on course to be completed by the end of the month, it is poised to become the first pub in Norfolk to be fully owned by the community.
While the priority is to preserve a hostelry famed for good beers, wines, and food, including its legendary Friday night fish and chips, villagers' ambitious plans will also see the White Horse being transformed into a community hub.
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It is likely to become home to a micro-brewery, village shop, internet cafe and educational centre, and the 200-year-old pub could even host hairdressing and complementary health sessions; plans are also being developed for a family friendly garden.
With earlier attempts to sell the business as a going concern falling through, residents in Upton launched a White Horse development trust to try to save it following a public meeting at the start of the year.
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Chairman of the trustees David Dix said: 'Just weeks ago the prospect of a community buy-out of the pub seemed highly unlikely.
'However, due to the generosity of local residents and supporters from as far away as Cumbria, together with significant support from Broadland District Council, it looks like this is about to become reality.'
One in three of Upton's residents has either pledged cash to become shareholders in a new community interest company (CIC) or volunteered to become involved in improving many aspects of the pub.
Reaching the �100,000 target will unlock further grant funding and the rest of the �300,000 asking price will be paid to Mr Norman and his business partner over the next five years.
Mr Dix said: 'There is a huge amount of excitement in the area about reaching this key milestone. However, the hard work starts now to deliver the vision that will seek to ensure that this pub will survive well into the 21st century.'
Trustees will soon become the first directors of the CIC and are now looking for a management team, possibly a couple, to run the pub and additional services.
Mr Dix said: 'We are looking for people experienced in managing pubs with a reputation for delivering quality and good value menus. Above all, they will need to demonstrate the enthusiasm and flexibility to run this ground-breaking pub - if they fail to be motivated by this opportunity, they are in the wrong trade.'
Co-trustee Ken Turner said: 'We are already preparing to submit plans to the district council for changes to the building to provide the additional services; we will then have to raise the money to do it.'
He praised the support of local professionals, including surveyors and architects, for 'putting in their work for free'.
Mr Norman, who worked at the White Horse for 11 years before taking over as landlord, said: 'I will still be living in Upton. Fifty years of my life are in the pub and I wish the people taking it over the best of luck.'
Anyone interested in either owning shares or being considered as managers is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org