Community pub gets go-ahead - and brings back its old name
- Credit: Archant
A project to transform a derelict pub into a vibrant community hub has taken a major step forward.
Breckland Council has given planning permission to the scheme for the White Swan in Gressenhall, which has sat empty since July 2018.
A specially-formed group called Gressenhall Community Enterprise (GCE) bought the pub from Alastair Simpson late last year for £360,000 thanks to a fundraising campaign in which they sold shares in the venture, along with a £100,000 grant from the Plunkett Foundation.
Alex Begg, chairman of GCE, said: “This is fantastic news for all our investors and people who have supported this project for the past two years. We are currently in the process of accepting tender responses from building contractors and hope to start work in April.”
Works will involve a complete redesign of the pub's interior to install a larger kitchen, new toilet facilities, an upstairs area and increased floor space, which will leave space for a community cafe. The main entrance will be moved to the front of the building.
The plans include employing a manager, chef, bar and kitchen staff, and volunteers will cover the earlier opening times of the cafe and other work, for example, gardening.
Another notable alteration is a change of name from The Swan to The White Swan, reverting back to its original 18th century title.
The application received almost 30 letters of support. One read: "The Swan public house has been part of Gressenhall life for over 200 years.
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"Its position on the green makes it an iconic landmark for the village. So many residents of the village have bought shares to enable the restoration, it is clear that there is enormous local support."
Breckland's report into the application said: "It is considered that as the site is occupied by the existing pub which is currently in a state of disrepair, the proposed works would enhance the character of the village and will play a valuable role in providing for the daily needs to the local community."
An earlier plan to build four houses on the site was rejected by Breckland Council.
It is hoped the pub will be reopened later this year.