A Norfolk town will soon be home to a new mental health facility.

Proposals to transform Watton Vibe Hotel, formerly the Hare and Barrel Hotel, into a care home have been approved by Breckland Council. 

The owners of the hotel at 80 Brandon Road first applied to turn it into a private specialist centre for addiction issues in 2018, but these were withdrawn following objections from the community. 

Instead, it reopened as a hotel in 2019 after a £1m investment into its restoration.

Despite the refurbishment, the original plans to create a drug and alcohol recovery facility were resubmitted and approved by Breckland Council the following year. 

This facility closed in January 2023, and the building was operated as a hotel again for a short period before shutting down. 

Watton & Swaffham Times: The former Hare and Barrel HotelThe former Hare and Barrel Hotel (Image: Google Maps)The vacant building is now set to be turned into a mental health facility, called the Willows, with 18 ensuite bedrooms, as well as a restaurant, cinema room and gym. 

The applicant, Watton Vibe Care, said: "The local community has not supported the hotel despite previous promises that they would once the refurbishment works were completed. This use continues to be unviable on the site.

"The new facility will be one of only a handful of care homes that will cater for people not just with a mental health condition, but who also have mobility issues. We will secure the long-term viable use of this building."

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The Willows will be aimed at those aged between 18 and 65 who require care due to old age, addiction or a mental disorder, and is expected to require 32 members of full-time staff.

Watton Town Council said the application was "positive" for its provision of new employment opportunities in the area. 

Breckland Council has granted full approval for the development.