Published: 12:00, 14 September 2018
| Updated: 13:15, 14 September 2018
A village pub which sat closed for the last eight years is set to reopen after being earmarked for residential development.
Those who campaigned to save the Little Gem in Aylesford High Street have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the premises has once again been granted a licence to operate as a pub.
The decision by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, made on Friday, September 7, comes two years after a successful application to change the 12th Century property's use so it could be sold as housing.
Back then, over 4,500 people signed a petition to stop the change as part of a year long planning saga which ended with Cllr Mike Parry-Waller, chairman of the area three planning committee, saying he thought the building would never open as a pub again.
Once believed to be the smallest pub in the county, the much loved tavern was bought for £150,000 at auction by John Griffiths in June - reigniting pub-goers' hopes that the Little Gem might re-open.
Saving the Little Gem, a Facebook page with over 800 followers set up to monitor developments and refurbishments at the pub, posted a message of joy after the licence was granted.
"John Griffiths shall henceforth be known as St John of Aylesford. We won!" it said.
However, amongst the excitement about a future relaunch is a strong feeling of concern from some villagers.
The application, while successful, received a number of objections from nearby residents worried about noise and drinking and smoking outside.
Councillor for Aylesford North and Walderslade Michael Base was among those who wrote to the council but was satisfied after the hearing.
"I am delighted that the premises licence was granted for the Little Gem to begin operating again as a public house. I have high expectations that it will become an asset to Aylesford village as a whole, especially as a focus on real-ales is an anticipated feature," he said.
"I had clear and public concerns regarding the initial application, as did Aylesford Parish Council and others. However by the time of the formal hearing most of the concerns raised had already been addressed through a renewed proposal from the owners of the Little Gem; for which I am grateful."
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