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'It is absolutely invaluable' - Community's fight to save 18th century village pub

PUBLISHED: 11:30 16 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:24 16 February 2019

The Swan, in Gressenhall, pictured several years ago. Picture: Graham Corney

The Swan, in Gressenhall, pictured several years ago. Picture: Graham Corney

Villagers have launched a campaign to save and reopen an 18th century pub which once served as the hub of a mid-Norfolk community.

The Swan in Gressenhall, near Dereham, ceased trading in July last year and was the subject of a planning application from owner Alastair Simpson to instead use the site for four new homes, which was rejected by Breckland Council’s planning committee last year.

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

If successful, the group is hoping to change the pub’s name back to The White Swan, as it was originally known.

Alex Begg, chairman of Gressenhall Community Enterprise, moved to Gressenhall six months ago with his wife, who grew up in the village.

He said: “I think the pub is absolutely invaluable to Gressenhall.

“Gressenhall’s community groups put on a number of fantastic events across the year but the pub is an unrivalled, unique space to socialise and meet new people and bond with the wider village.

“It’s been around since 1795 and speaking to many people in the village and the surrounding area, a lot of people see great value in a well-run community oriented pub and hope it will reopen before too long.”

The campaign has attracted hundreds of supporters from Gressenhall and the surrounding villages, including from some local groups and businesses.

Mr Begg added: “People often tell me of their great memories of the pub and the happy times that they have had as a village together. We really want the opportunity to do that again.

“It’s something that will take time. It will be a challenge and there’s lots of work that needs to be done.”

When previously discussing the pub’s closure, Mr Simpson, the owner, said he had received “a total lack of support.”

The group is hoping to get a valuation of the establishment to work out how much needs to be raised and has laid out an action plan to work towards.

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