Pub campaigners up against the clock

Three weeks to save the Royal Oak in Dunkeswell.

Campaigners who were banned from their village pub after they set up a committee to save it from closure are now in a race against time.

Villagers in Dunkeswell have got less than three weeks to find funding to turn the Royal Oak into a community pub - or a developer will start work on converting it into dwellings.

“When the pub was sold for development, the village was devastated and heartbroken,” said campaigner Samantha Wakefield.

“I went to speak to workmen, who were ripping out the contents of the pub, and explained our story.”

The conversation led to a meeting with the property developer, who was unaware of a campaign to save the pub from closure.

“He said he would love to help the village get its pub back, but we are now facing a virtually impossible race against time,” said Samantha. “Work is due to start on the conversion in two to three weeks’ time but, if a funding body is willing to talk, the developer says we may be able to sort the issue out.”

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An urgent plea for help has now been sent to Village SOS, East Devon District Council, The Big Lottery Fund and the Community Council of Devon.

The Royal Oak was the subject of a public meeting in the village more than a year ago, attracting a turnout of more than 100 residents.

Villagers hoped to work with the then owner of the pub in a bid to save it, but Samantha says: “After the meeting, the landlord wrote to us and said we were no longer welcome in the pub.”

A spokeswoman for East Devon District Council said: “I can confirm that East Devon District Council and the Community Council of Devon (CCD) have recently extended their funding for village halls and community buildings to include community shops and community pubs.

“This funding is to help improve, refurbish or even build these facilities. There must be match funding available of at least twice the amount of the grant.

“EDDC will only fund projects in villages and rural areas, CCD will fund projects in towns or in rural areas.

“The maximum grant from EDDC is �5,000 and the maximum grant from the Community Council of Devon is �20,000.

“You only need to fill in one application form to apply for both. The closing dates are July 31 and January 31.”