New hope for Norfolk village pub

Emma KnightsA Norfolk village may see its pub reopen by the end of the year after a husband and wife team submitted plans to restore the venue.Emma Knights

A Norfolk village may see its pub reopen by the end of the year after a husband and wife team submitted plans to restore the venue.

The Red Lion Inn at Caston, near Watton, has been shut since 2007, and last November an application to turn the grade II listed building into a three-bedroom home was rejected by Breckland Council following strong objection from the local community.

But now the same applicants - husband and wife Dan and Anna Metcalfe of Shropham-based Chapel Partners - have come up with a scheme to reopen it.

They want to carry out extensive renovation work on the Red Lion's interior and exterior and relaunch the pub as a 'quality destination for eating and drinking at the heart of the village.'

The plans, which were sent to Breckland Council last week, also include converting the pub's existing storage barn into a two-bedroom cottage and building a new three-bedroom cottage in the pub's grounds - but Mr Metcalfe said the pub will be refurbished and reopened before any of the building work on the cottages takes place.

'We would open the pub before anything is done with the two homes because we want to be very clear to everybody that we mean what we say about reopening the pub,' said Mr Metcalfe, who has been involved in the pub industry since 2003.

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'The pub needs to be able to sustain itself and the money for the renovation would come from the proceeds of the two homes.'

He said they would hope to find a couple to run the Red Lion, and stressed it would be important that they wanted to run a local pub for a lifestyle choice rather than to make a lot of money.

If the planning application is successful, Mr Metcalfe said he would like the pub to be open by the end of the year.

'It is vital that we have local support for the pub because that is the only way that a village will keep its pub,' he added.

Mr Metcalfe said an exhibition in the village about the plans generated lots of positive feedback and he said he has received about a dozen emails and letters from people in favour of the scheme.

Among them is 52-year-old Tony Ash, who lives in The Green, Caston, who said the scheme would keep the pub at the heart of the village and retain an important facility.

He said: 'Three months ago I actively opposed the scheme to convert the Red Lion pub into a residential home. I, along with other local residents, organised a petition of 87 signatures, and I spoke against the proposal at the development control committee. I am delighted to say that we maintained a positive relationship with the owners of the building, and after widespread consultation they have now come forward with a scheme which will give the Red Lion a really sustainable future as a local village freehouse.'

Forty-nine-year-old Ian Jessett, from Mere Road in nearby Stow Bedon, was also a campaigner against the previous plans to turn the pub into housing but now supports the new scheme.

He said: 'I think it is a good idea. It would be good to get the pub back open again. I would say about 90pc of local people are in favour of the new plans. The others want it as a pub but without the extra housing.'