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Fresh bid to revitalise derelict village pub for £230,000

PUBLISHED: 06:30 05 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:32 05 August 2020

Community members in front of the Swan pub in Gressenhall, which they are hoping to reopen as a community pub. Pictured are, back row, Alex Begg, Tim Jarvis, Sarah Jarvis, Chris Smith, Simon Cleare, Nikki Neale, Ben Philo, Pam Neale, Dominic Chessum, Rosie Begg

, front row, 
Claudia Pollinger, Laura Cross and her son Freddie. Picture: Tony Buckingham

Community members in front of the Swan pub in Gressenhall, which they are hoping to reopen as a community pub. Pictured are, back row, Alex Begg, Tim Jarvis, Sarah Jarvis, Chris Smith, Simon Cleare, Nikki Neale, Ben Philo, Pam Neale, Dominic Chessum, Rosie Begg , front row, Claudia Pollinger, Laura Cross and her son Freddie. Picture: Tony Buckingham

© Tony Buckingham/ UNP 0845 600 7737

A derelict village pub could be brought back to life if an ambitious plan to raise £230,000 is successful.

Alex Begg with Laura Cross and her son Freddie in front of the Swan at Gressenhall. Laura is wearing a virtual reality headset, which has been programmed so that people can see plans of how the pub will look. Picture: Tony BuckinghamAlex Begg with Laura Cross and her son Freddie in front of the Swan at Gressenhall. Laura is wearing a virtual reality headset, which has been programmed so that people can see plans of how the pub will look. Picture: Tony Buckingham

Villagers in Gressenhall, near Dereham, need to raise the cash to buy, refurbish and reopen the Swan pub, which closed in July 2018.

Alex Begg, one of the people leading the campaign, said they hoped to fundraise through a venture capital scheme called Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR).

Mr Begg said SITR offered a low rate of interest and gave investors up to 30pc back in tax relief.

He said they would start a two-month campaign in late August, with people able to buy shares - starting at £50 - in the pub.

Community members in front of the Swan pub in Gressenhall, which they are hoping to reopen as a community pub. Pictured are, back row, Alex Begg, Claudia Pollinger, Nikki Neale, Simon Cleare,Chris Smith, Pam Neale, Sarah Jarvis, Rosie Begg, Ben Philo, Dominic Chessum, Tim Jarvis, front, Laura Cross and her son Freddie. Picture: Tony BuckinghamCommunity members in front of the Swan pub in Gressenhall, which they are hoping to reopen as a community pub. Pictured are, back row, Alex Begg, Claudia Pollinger, Nikki Neale, Simon Cleare,Chris Smith, Pam Neale, Sarah Jarvis, Rosie Begg, Ben Philo, Dominic Chessum, Tim Jarvis, front, Laura Cross and her son Freddie. Picture: Tony Buckingham

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He said: “£350,000 would acquire the building, complete internal developments and give us enough money to get going and we believe we can achieve this through social investment loans and a share raise of £230,000. It’s ambitious but I believe we can do it.

“Equally important for a project with the community at its heart, is the chance for people, who have a vested interest in its success, to get financially involved and enjoy some great tax incentives in the process.”

MORE: ‘It is absolutely invaluable’ - Community’s fight to save 18th century village pub

Mr Begg, who has worked on a scheme raising awareness about SITR in the past, said: “I am perhaps one of too few people who know a reasonable amount about SITR and am keen to make its benefits understood to prospective members of our Community Benefit Society as well as others trying to achieve similar aims.

Alex Begg in front of the Swan pub in Gressenhall, which he and others are hoping to reopen as a community pub. Picture: Tony BuckinghamAlex Begg in front of the Swan pub in Gressenhall, which he and others are hoping to reopen as a community pub. Picture: Tony Buckingham

“It is a great way of raising a significant amount of money with borrowing rates that are much more attractive than traditional lending.”

If the project is successful, the pub would open seven days a week offering a mixture of ales and food from produce sourced from nearby farms. Four jobs and a number of volunteer positions would be created and themed evenings, quizzes and other fundraising events would be held.

After the Swan closed, owner Alastair Simpson applied to Breckland Council to use the site for four new homes, but this bid was rejected by the council’s planning committee.

The proposals were met with fierce opposition by local residents, with more than 70 letters of objection being submitted. The Gressenhall Community Enterprise was formed to try and buy the pub and bring it under community ownership.


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