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Cheers! Villagers raise £100k to buy fire-damaged Suffolk pub

PUBLISHED: 11:00 28 July 2018

People in Wickham Market gathered to launch the share scheme to save The George pub. Picture: JULIAN EVANS

People in Wickham Market gathered to launch the share scheme to save The George pub. Picture: JULIAN EVANS

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A Suffolk village is set to buy its last remaining pub more than five years after the historic building was devastated by fire.

The George pub as it looks today Picture: THE GEORGE COMMUNITY PUBThe George pub as it looks today Picture: THE GEORGE COMMUNITY PUB

People in Wickham Market have pledged over £100,000 through a community share scheme to purchase The George pub.

“After an amazing 10 week period we have shown how much support and loyalty we have for the project both in the village and from further afield,” said a spokesman. “The Wickham Market community never ceases to amaze and we thank everyone who have invested so far.”

The first stage of the purchase, which will be completed within 28 working days, marks the culmination of two years’ effort from the volunteers who formed the George Community Pub project.

Villagers had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress over the Grade II listed building, which was left a burnt out shell following a fire in April 2013. New owners submitted plans for the pub but these were rejected due to conservation concerns relating to some of the oldest features of the pub, which date back to the Tudor era.

Beer mats have been designed for when the pub opens Picture: THE GEORGE COMMUNITY PUBBeer mats have been designed for when the pub opens Picture: THE GEORGE COMMUNITY PUB

After the community agreed to take up the challenge of saving their pub, project leaders set to work creating a feasibility study, business plan and grant application.

It is estimated the total project will cost around £1.6m, with around £1m coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the remainder from a mixture of grants and the share scheme.

Around 200 villagers turned out to mark the launch of the scheme in May with many making pledges and claiming free drinks vouchers to redeem when the pub reopens.

Organisers wanted to kick-start the scheme with a “big display of community support”.

Having now achieved the target, the team is look to exercise its “option to buy”, which is hoped to support its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as other grand organisations.

The pub’s design will be based on the results of a household survey, which conservation architects NJA has used to produce a conceptual layout.

“One advantage to having a complete restoration and rebuild is to be able to add to the building’s footprint and to use existing areas in a more efficient and flexible way” the spokesman added. “All being well the New George could open its doors in 2021.”

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