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Village pub given community asset status as decision looms on holiday let proposal

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A Fenland village pub at the centre of a planning row has been formally registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

Campaigners fighting to preserve the Five Bells pub in Upwell say the designation should be considered when a decision on whether to grant planning approval for its conversion to a holiday let is made next week.

But West Norfolk Council officials have again recommended approval of the scheme when it goes before a planning committee meeting on Monday.

The Five Bells at Upwell.
The Five Bells at Upwell.

They say there is "no clear direction" on whether councillors should take the ACV designation into account or not.

A decision on the retrospective application to convert the building into a holiday let capable of accommodating up to 20 guests in nine bedrooms was deferred in August, amid conflicting legal advice.

Since then, an application for ACV status submitted by the Five Bells Inn Preservation Society has been accepted.

And the group is also conducting an online survey to gauge public support to restore the building as a pub.

A report published ahead of Monday's planning meeting at Lynn Town Hall said: "The Society state that this ACV status is a relevant material planning consideration in the determination of this application."

But planners argue that previous case law suggests there is no clear legal direction on the issue.

The report said: "It is for Members to take a view regarding the weight given to the ACV status as a material planning consideration given the proposal accords with the adopted development plan."

The Five Bells began operating as a holiday let during the coronavirus crisis, having closed as a pub in March 2020.

Developers say the pub had experienced falling profits in the years prior to its closure.

And supporters have argued that the presence of other licensed premises in the village justifies the conversion proposal/

But objectors say the facilities available at the Five Bells are more extensive than at other venues.

The West Norfolk CAMRA group said: "The increasing strength of support for local pubs is demonstrated by the number of community buyouts in the area."

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