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MP throws support behind campaign to save village's last pub

PUBLISHED: 09:22 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 21 August 2019

The Swan pub in Gressenhall, which closed in July 2018. Picture: Archant

The Swan pub in Gressenhall, which closed in July 2018. Picture: Archant

A campaign to stop a village's last pub from being turned into housing has earned the backing of an MP.

Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman has thrown his support behind a campaign to save The Swan pub in Gressenhall. Picture: Gressenhall Community EnterpriseMid-Norfolk MP George Freeman has thrown his support behind a campaign to save The Swan pub in Gressenhall. Picture: Gressenhall Community Enterprise

George Freeman, member of parliament for Mid Norfolk, has thrown his weight behind the fight to save The Swan in Gressenhall, near Dereham, which ceased trading in July last year.

Owner Alastair Simpson subsequently submitted a planning application to demolish the pub - an Asset of Community Value (ACV) - and build four new homes, but it was resoundingly rejected by Breckland Council's planning committee.

The prospect of the village losing its last pub hastened the formation of Gressenhall Community Enterprise (GCE), a group of residents determined to buy the pub and bring it under community ownership.

Having become a community benefit society, GCE hopes to eventually roll out a crowdfunding campaign allowing local people to buy a stake in the pub.

Alastair Simpson, owner of The Swan in Gressenhall, is looking to demolish the pub and turn it into new homes. Picture: ArchantAlastair Simpson, owner of The Swan in Gressenhall, is looking to demolish the pub and turn it into new homes. Picture: Archant

And with concerns mounting over the possibility of a revised application, Mr Freeman has voiced his support behind the group's ongoing efforts.

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He said: "Pubs are so often at the heart of our communities and rural heritage, playing a key part in keeping villages vibrant.

"That's why I am fully supportive of the efforts by residents in Gressenhall to save The Swan - and why, like them, I am looking forward to buying a share myself."

As public appetite to secure The Swan's future intensifies, GCE is set to host a pop-up pub event on Gressenhall Green this Friday, August 23, with a barbecue, bar and live music.

With the group looking to raise awareness of the campaign, chairman Alex Begg emphasised what having a pub means to the village.

"In the 1950s there were seven pubs in Gressenhall and, for a village of more than 1,000 people, it seems a real shame that we're now at risk of having none," he said.

"There's a huge amount of local support for this. I and others in the village feel the pub fulfils a lot of social means such as reducing loneliness and providing somewhere to socialise.

"The beauty of a pub under community ownerships is that it allows everybody to have a stake and a say on how it's run. We had a great conversation with George Freeman and we've also received great support from businesses and the community."

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