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Two key wins for campaigners in fight to reopen Stoke Ferry pub

Villagers wanting to reopen a mothballed pub for community use are edging closer to realising that ambition.

When The Blue Bell closed in March 2018, it left Stoke Ferry without its only licensed premises.

And now campaigners hoping to buy the property and put it at the heart of the community again have had two good bits of news.

The Plunkett Foundation, which supports community businesses and runs the More than a Pub programme, has given Save The Blue Bell a £2,500 grant. This will fund a survey next month to establish what building work would be required.

The group could then bid to buy the premises, on the market for £225,000.

Vice-chairman Jim McNeill, who led the application to register the property as an Asset of Coomunity Value, said it's hoped that the Plunkett Foundation would complement the group's fundraising with a £50,000 grant and a £50,000 loan.

"It would be more than a pub," he said. "It would involve all the community, such as having lunches for the elderly and building on the volunteer support that has grown out of the coronavirus.

"It would be more of a licensed cafe during the day and we'd look to have occasional no alcohol events for families and children."

The other good news from Save The Blue Bell's perspective is that an appeal by the property's owner against West Norfolk Council's refusal of planning permission for converting it to a home has been dismissed.

The planning inspector found that "non-viability of the public house has not been demonstrated beyond doubt" and a single home would do little to address any shortfall in housing supply.

It means owner Oxygen 56 Ltd's unlikely next stop would be the High Court. Instead, it's believed the company wants to offload a property bought for £165,000 last summer.

Save The Blue Bell hopes to be at the front of the queue and thinks it has the business plan to make it a thriving place once more.

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