WORRIED residents have been urged not to panic over developers’ interest in the site of a once-thriving village pub.

Rumours have been flying around Ingbirchworth after men thought to be working for a builder were seen at the now-derelict Fountain Inn.

The freehold and building are up for sale after being off-loaded by former owners, Enterprise Inns. And residents fear the site will be sold for housing rather than be restored to a pub and possible community hub.

Fears were raised at Monday’s meeting of the parish council. But ward councillor Hannah Kitching says interest from developers is only to be expected. And she thinks two important factors could put builders off trying to turn the land over for homes.

“The situation is as it was,” she said.

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“There is an interested party who wants to buy the building and restore it to what it was. I have also been told of a couple more enquiries. There will be developers interested in this. I know that.

“But there are a couple of things to bear in mind: I believe part of the building is historic and listed and there is also a community preservation order on it. This means the parish has to be informed of any scheme which would change use of the building and has been imposed to protect community interest.

“So if the site is sold for housing that would be a change of use and the community would have to be consulted.

“So it is no surprise that people are looking round. But it is not a huge plot. It would only take a handful of houses. So it could be a question of whether listed status curbs and the community order are enough of a deterrent to a developer.

“But if someone wants to come and renovate the building as a pub as we all want it will need a huge amount of money. We know that.

“Interest from various parties is to be expected but it does not mean anything has happened. The site is on the open market and that is that. I realise local people will be jumpy until this situation is resolved.”

The parish council achieved community asset status for the site to allay fears of a new housing scheme. Villagers are desperate for a community facility and see the Fountain as a possible answer to this need.