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Stoke Ferry residents told: 'Act now or lose your last pub forever'

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Residents have been urged to come forward now if they want to save the last pub in a West Norfolk village.

Plans to convert the Blue Bell pub in Stoke Ferry into a private house have been submitted to West Norfolk Council.

But community leaders have opposed the idea, amid questions over whether enough was done to promote the site as a potential business opportunity.

Plans afoot to re-open the 'The Blue Bell' pub in Lynn Road.. (21087107)
Plans afoot to re-open the 'The Blue Bell' pub in Lynn Road.. (21087107)

Documents submitted as part of the planning application by Oxygen 56 Limited say an application to list the pub, which has been closed for the past 18 months, as an asset of community value (ACV) was approved in May.

But the building was subsequently delisted in August, a move which the developers claim was made after a tenant who had been in place when they bought the site pulled out and no local groups expressed an interest in buying it.

However, parish councillor Kit Hesketh-Harvey said he had “misgivings” about their stance when the authority discussed the issue on Wednesday night.

He said: “It was just done so slickly. It smells a bit fishy.”

Jim McNeill, who led the campaign to list the pub as an ACV, called for a public meeting to be organised to establish whether there is sufficient support for the idea of keeping it as a community facility.

He offered to use his own experience in the industry to help anyone who came forward to run it as a pub or restaurant.

He said: “We want it to be retained as a community venue, whatever form that takes.”

The debate over the pub’s future comes only weeks after plans for 100 new homes in the village were approved, subject to the completion of legal agreements.

The parish council argues that allowing the pub to be lost would undermine its status as a key rural centre in the borough council’s local plan.

But some residents questioned whether the demand existed for a pub in the village, highlighting the loss of other services in recent times. One speaker even suggested the A134 bypass had “killed” the village.

Councillors voted to ask their borough representative, Colin Sampson, to call in the application, meaning that it would go before the borough council’s planning committee for a decision.

Mr Sampson expressed his support for their stance, but warned the building was likely to remain “empty and unloved” for some time if they succeeded.

He said: “It will stand there doing nothing for however long your plans take to come to fruition, which I hope they do.”

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