Residents of a West Norfolk village whose last remaining pub is facing closure have been told they can save it for the community.
The rallying call was delivered as campaigners launched a £300,000 fundraising appeal to buy Northwold’s Crown Inn at a packed public meeting on Friday night.
A steering group formed to head the campaign is in the process of setting up a company that would own the pub, which is currently due to shut later this month, if the campaign is successful.
One of its members is Abbie Panks, manager of Lynn’s Vancouver Quarter shopping centre and vice-chairman of Shouldham Community Enterprises, the company formed to buy the King’s Arms pub, which reopened three years ago.
She told the meeting at the village hall that the pub there was thriving, in both business and social terms, and the same can happen in Northwold.
She said: “It’s been a lot more successful than we ever thought it would be.
“Shouldham is half the size of Northwold.
“I’ve heard people say they lived here for two years and never knew anybody because there was nowhere to meet them.”
Shares in the new Northwold and Whittington Community Benefit Society are being offered for sale at £50 each in order to raise most of the money the group believes will be needed to complete a purchase.
Although some grant funding may also be available, officials believe that would only form a small part of the total.
Steering group committee chairman Mark Vanderstay urged residents to “dig deep” to support the appeal and stressed that all money would be returned to investors if the campaign failed.
But he said he was encouraged by the sense of community shown by village events such as the annual carnival.
He said: “The community spirit is here. Money is the thing that needs to come next.”
Last month, parish councillors nominated the pub to be registered as an asset of community value (ACV), after an earlier application to West Norfolk Council was turned down.
If approved, the designation would give the community a six month window to complete a purchase.
A decision on the latest application is expected next month.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss pledged to do all she could to support the purchase campaign and to look at whether both the local and national processes of registering ACVs could be improved.
She said: “The fact this room is so full shows the interest in having a pub in the village.
“There are many fantastic pubs around South West Norfolk and I want to see one there. There are huge opportunities.
“The whole intention of this policy is to ensure pubs can’t just be run down and sold off for housing.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about the campaign should email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01366 308381.