New plans to bring a controversial Amberley pub back to life have been revealed in a public meeting.
The Black Horse pub has been the centre of village debate after property developer Paul Marston, of Hirsh Marston Ltd, bought the disused venue last year and announced plans to convert it into two holiday homes.
However, the listed building has now been sold to media mogul Paul Smith, (behind the TV show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) who has pledged to re-open the venue as a pub.
Residents who formed the Black Horse Action Group, which has been campaigning to re-establish the pub in the community have been shown sketches of its new look.
Set to re-open in spring 2015, the pub looks set to remain as a village snug, serving drinks, bar food and snacks to residents, walkers, cyclists and other visitors.
The former restaurant will become one of the main dining areas, doubling up as a function room, and a new Garden Room restaurant is to be added to the side of the building, with an outside terrace leading on to a paved garden. Other changes will include a private dinning room, five bed and breakfast rooms, and disabled ramps.
Chairman of the Black Horse Action Group, Jeff Feakins, said: “At the time of the purchase of the pub, the Black Horse Action Group was confident that the new owner, Paul Smith, was keen to secure the future of the Black Horse for the long term.
“The care with which he and his team have prepared their plans, worked these through with the neighbouring property owners, and then presented them to Amberley residents gives me the confidence that his team is balancing the need for a commercially viable pub with the interests of the community.
“Undoubtedly, there will be challenges for the pub and the village during the initial construction work to enhance the pub, and thereafter while the pub establishes itself, but the goodwill that exists within the village for Paul and his team should ensure that these can be jointly overcome and I certainly look forward to its opening in April 2015 and its future commercial success.”
Mr Smith was in attendance at the public meeting with more than 70 residents crowded into St Michael’s Church Hall, Amberley.
He pointed out there were at least four Black Horse pubs within a 10-mile radius of Amberley, all of which was too confusing. He added that the pub locally had acquired a fairly unenviable reputation and a name change was essential.
A new name is yet to be chosen.