Closed pub could turn into a community hub
VILLAGERS are looking at buying a closed pub to create a new community centre.
If the plan goes ahead, it could see Fritwell’s residents selling their old village hall and buying the former George and Dragon pub to replace it.
The pub, which has a car park and garden, would be transformed into a multi-use centre, and could retain a licensed bar.
Although planning is still in the early stages, a survey of Fritwell households showed overwhelming support for the idea, with 69 per cent in favour.
Rob Jones, of the Fritwell village hall committee, said: “The hall building is reaching the end of its life and we haven’t got the funds to build a new one.
“This opportunity came up and it seems we have a bit of a duty to look at it, and to save a building right in the middle of the village.
“It might also save us having to raise £500,000 to build a new one. The risk of doing nothing is that any developer could buy it and do what they want to it.
“It could be much more than a village hall – it may continue in part as a pub.”
The George and Dragon, previously run by Peter Sanford, who was left disabled after a fall, is on the market as a pub for £375,000.
A valuation of the existing village hall site will take place shortly.
Mr Jones said: “The next stage is to carry out a valuation and make sure the figures stack up financially, or if we are left with a deficit and need to raise some money.”
Afterwards, villagers would be asked to vote whether or not to sell the village hall site and buy the pub.
If villagers do buy the building they would need planning permission to change its use to a community centre.
Both pubs in the village have closed and the committee, which holds an alcohol licence, has recently opened the village hall on Thursday nights for people to drop in for a pint.
James Macnamara, Cherwell district councillor for Fritwell, said: “It seems an incredibly imaginative proposal and potentially solves a lot of problems. It sounds like a great way to keep everything going.”
Stephen Lawrence, secretary of the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said: “We generally campaign in favour of plans to get pubs back into use.
“I’m aware of other community pubs, there’s a whole range of recipes – pubs attached to schools and post offices, almost any permutation can be done.”