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Share option launched in Foulden pub fight amid appeal over Breckland Council home decision

Villagers who are fighting to save their local pub have launched a share option scheme to help fund its purchase.

Campaigners for the White Hart in Foulden aim to raise at least £160,000 through the programme, and say they already have around £25,000 in pledges.

But all that could be for nothing if a government planning inspector overturns a decision to block proposals to convert the building into a private home.

The White Hart at Foulden (44167168)
The White Hart at Foulden (44167168)

Representatives of the White Hart Inn Community Benefit Society have released a prospectus, along with a business case and community benefit plan, in an effort to encourage supporters to invest.

Shares cost £1 each and supporters are being invited to invest anything from £100 to £25,000.

The group is aiming to raise between £160,000 and £280,000 to fund the purchase and refurbishment of the building.

It claims there is strong local support for the pub to be re-opened and believes the pledges made so far will lead to further investments.

Group chairman Stephen Ward said: "We want the pub to be more than the traditional hostelry.

"We want it to bring back lost services, as well as to provide services the village never had and so be the heart of the village life.

But the launch of the prospectus comes as a planning appeal relating to the pub enters its final stages.

The site was formally listed as an Asset of Community Value, meaning the village should be given the first opportunity to acquire it if it became available for sale, by Breckland Council last summer.

The authority has also turned down two applications for permission to turn the building into a private house, the latest in September 2020.

But applicant David Wells has lodged an appeal against that decision and the deadline for submissions in the case passes tomorrow.

A document setting out the grounds for the appeal, submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on Mr Wells' behalf, argues the village is too small to sustain a pub and the experience of previous operators in struggling to sustain a business despite many positive reviews from customers showed it was not financially viable.

It also claimed that a community pub similar to the Kings Arms at Shouldham would be a "huge burden" for the village and alleged no "sensible" offer had been made for the site.

It added: "The pub is not the only community facility in the village.

"Consequently, its loss would have only a minor impact upon the quality of life of its residents, who are already accustomed to travelling outside the village for their day-to-day needs and entertainment."

But the council claims the plan breached planning guidelines because there wasn't enough evidence to justify a change of use on viability grounds.

And campaigners believe plans for a significant new housing development in Foulden further justify their bid to re-open it.

The prospectus says: "In the past, the White Hart Inn has traded very successfully and considerable goodwill towards the pub remains within the village and in the local area.

"The reopening of the pub as the Foulden Community Pub & Café, a local community hub, will restore it a very sought-after destination."

To find out more about the share issue, visit www.fouldenwhitehart.com.prospectus. The offer remains open until the end of May.

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