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Businessman expresses interest in saving last village pub

PUBLISHED: 14:57 16 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:17 16 January 2020

The Blue Bell pub in Stoke Ferry. Picture: Stoke Ferry Parish Council

The Blue Bell pub in Stoke Ferry. Picture: Stoke Ferry Parish Council

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A businessman has come forward with a vision of saving a Norfolk village pub.

More than 50 people attended an open meeting held by Stoke Ferry Parish council to discuss the future of the Blue Bell pub. Picture: Stoke FerryMore than 50 people attended an open meeting held by Stoke Ferry Parish council to discuss the future of the Blue Bell pub. Picture: Stoke Ferry

The Blue Bell pub in Stoke Ferry, near Downham Market, was closed in March 2018 due to poor trading.

A planning application to change the use of the pub into private housing was rejected by West Norfolk Council last year on the grounds that the "proposed development would result in the loss of an employment site and community facility" in the village.

Following that decision a meeting was held at Stoke Ferry Village Hall on Wednesay, January 15 to discuss ideas which could keep the Blue Bell as a pub or community facility.

More than 50 people attended the meeting, which was facilitated by Stoke Ferry Parish Council.

Jim McNeill, parish councillor, led the discussions and asked the public for their suggestions.

Mr McNeill said: "When my wife and I moved here three and a half years ago [the Blue Bell] is where we met people.

"It is vital for a vibrant village to have a pub.

"If plan A, B and C don't work it could end up as a derelict building."

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Andrew Wright, from Magdalen, outlined his interest in running the pub as a "commercial venture".

He said: "It would be a significant venture for me, not just financially.

"I saw this village and that pub as fitting the brief I'm looking for and I'm interested what people think about me running that pub.

"It would be run as a business and as a community pub. I want it to be somewhere you can take your mother and your children."

Concern was raised over the Blue Bell's viability if it was to remain as a pub, with some members of the public suggesting it be used as a post office or shop.

A member of the public said: "We've got Downham Market where people can go drink and King's Lynn and Bedingfield Arms is a really good one around here.

"But for this village we don't have anything stopping traffic."

The overall majority of people at the meeting supported the notion it should be maintained as a pub or business.

Other alternatives were discussed such as a community run pub which could see people buy shares into it.

Stoke Ferry Parish Council has reapplied to list the pub as an asset of community value.

Following the borough council's decision on the application another meeting will be held to develop any ideas.

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