A 300-year-old pub that has been closed since 2011 faces an uncertain future because of its high asking price.
Residents of Fadmoor, near Kirkbymoorside, are campaigning to re-open The Plough Inn as a community hub that could act as a 'gateway' to the North York Moors National Park.
The building is owned by local millionaire Peter Wilkinson, who lives at nearby Sleightholmedale, but attempts by the community to buy it have been turned down as they could not meet the £495,000 guide price.
The Plough is formally listed as an Asset of Community Value, which restricts its future changes of use and protects it from inappropriate development.
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The Wilkinson family claim that they have submitted planning applications to convert the pub into holiday accommodation and offices, but that their proposals have been rejected by the National Park Authority.
The Fadmoor Community Pub Company, which has been formed by local backers, has lobbied for the building to be subject to a compulsory purchase order to resolve its future. They offered Wilkinson £350,000 for the property, but this was declined.
The campaigners want the boarded-up pub to become a multi-activity facility, and have suggested it could be used as a library, education centre, shop, cafe, tourist information point, music venue and a meeting place for community groups. Fadmoor Community Pub Company administrator Gerry McMahon said:-
"The Plough has been a pub for 300 years, survived numerous recessions and two world wars. Ninety per cent of the community want it to remain a pub and have the ability to finance its purchase and the enthusiasm to run it profitably with no private gain. In that capacity it will serve the local and wider community and remain a valued asset to Ryedale and the North York Moors National Park."
Their bid has gained the support of Ryedale councillor Janet Frank, who added:-
"It would be wonderful to see the pub re-opened. It's at the gateway to the National Park and in an area that attracts many tourists. Re-opening The Plough would benefit not only Fadmoor but the Kirkbymoorside and Bransdale communities a well. It would also provide employment. The pub has been a blot on the landscape for too long and everyone wants to see it given a new lease of life as a community pub."
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Peter Wilkinson's son Luke, who acts as his land and estates agent, said:-
"We are talking to the National Park Authority about alternative uses to make the building sustainable."
Wilkinson owned and ran The Plough for 10 years before he put it on the market in 2011. At the time, the web tycoon, who has appeared in the Sunday Times Rich List, claimed he was investing £35,000 per year in the venture to keep it open, but that it was no longer economically viable. He also owns the Royal Oak in the neighbouring village of Gillamoor, which is more successful because it has guest accommodation attached.
Fadmoor's village chapel, shop and post office all closed before The Plough and it has been left with few amenities.
The Wilkinsons own the Bransdale and Pennyholme shooting estate in the area. Peter, who founded free internet service provider Freeserve, is a Leeds United fan who has been touted as a potential buyer of the club in the past.
He and former Leeds United commercial director Adam Pearson bankrolled Hull City from 2001, with Pearson taking the chairman's role. They sold the club in 2007 and Wilkinson then vowed never to return to football, citing fans' unrealistic expectations of success as his reason for turning his back on the game.
In 2010, he told the Yorkshire Post:-
"I have finished in football forever. Why would you want to spend your hard-earned money to be abused and ridiculed by the supporters, hated by some of them, because you cannot achieve something that is totally unrealistic?
"That is why I would not want to own another football club. Plus, I am a private man and don't like a public image. I did Hull and I did it with Adam. I think we did a great job together and took them from bankruptcy to the Championship.
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"Fans want you to spend all that money but then you are jeopardising the whole future of the football club.
"What would Hull, what could Leeds realistically be? The best they could hope is you are Everton or Villa. Never going to win anything, never going to achieve top four, never going to get into the Champions League – and fans never learn the lesson.
"If you can't win anything, what's the point of starting the race?"