Published: 08:54, 28 September 2021
| Updated: 14:03, 28 September 2021
A village pub which it was feared would be lost for good and turned into houses could be reopened as a hostelry.
The Royal Oak in Mersham, near Ashford, saw its last pints pulled in October 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic proving the final blow after a the venue struggled under a succession of landlords.
Earlier this year plans were lodged with Ashford Borough Council (ABC) to convert the Grade II-listed inn, parts of which date back to the 1400s, into two homes.
Villagers expressed their sadness that the pub on The Street would be lost, but the application was subsequently withdrawn.
Now a fresh application has been made to remodel the building, which was sold by Shepherd Neame in March, to bring the pub back to life and turn part of the property into a three-bedroom house.
The planning statement submitted in support of the application sets out the plans to make the business 'free of tie' to a brewery and balance its drinks trade with food service.
It says: "The new owners, who currently run a tenanted public house on behalf of Shepherd Neame Ltd in the local Kent area have produced a commercial viability statement for the public house which confirms that it could support 40 seated within the main restaurant/bar area for meals, plus additional seating within a new and improved rear beer garden area."
The Royal Oak faces competition from the community-owned Farriers Arms, which is less than a mile away in Mersham.
Villager Richard Jakeman, speaking earlier this year, expressed his hope that as a free house the pub could be more successful.
He said: "I don't think it has to compete with the Farriers. Since being in the village we've used the Oak as a sociable drinking local and the Farriers for eating.
"They're both very good at what they do but admittedly the Oak is always going to face a challenge making money predominantly from 'wet' sales.
"The landlords did a great job but were definitely constrained by the brewery, as a free house the place would have a real chance to be successful."