West Norfolk pub hopes for new lease of life as holiday let

Five Bells at Upwell which has closed as a pub

Five Bells at Upwell which has closed as a pub and now offering holiday accommodation for groups of up to 20 family members or friends. Formal consent is being sought from West Norfolk planners. - Credit: Five Bells

A bid to close a village pub and continue its use permanently as an upmarket holiday let has been made to West Norfolk Council. 

The Five Bells at Upwell is being advertised on holiday websites with prices ranging from £5,000 a week rising to over £9,000 for the New Year. 

Pub owners Christopher Robinson and James Brighty say the pub is ideal for groups of up to 20 or family members.  

“No external alterations are proposed to the building or its curtilage and as such it is considered that the application proposal will have no material impact on surrounding heritage assets,” their agents told planners. 

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss  (left) visited the Five Bells

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss (left) visited the Five Bells in Upwell in 2015 as it re-opened following extensive renovation. However in later years profits fell and owners now want to use it for holiday lets - Credit: Liz Truss office

In a business plan, submitted with their change of use application, the owners say the Five Bells closed in March 2020 “after several years of declining profitability 

“It has thereafter been let as a single holiday; it is typically rented to a family for family parties or to a group of friends for a long weekend.” 

They add: “As the building sleeps up to 20 people it is perfect for large groups and there are few other holiday lets that can accommodate this many people in one building and as such it is in great demand (or was before Covid 19 led to its temporary closure in summer 2020).” 

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The two businessmen bought the pub in 2014 and substantially refurbished it and re-opened for business as a pub in summer 2015. 

Historic view of the Five Bells, Upwel

Historic view of the Five Bells, Upwell, taken from the archives. - Credit: Archives

However, profits nose-dived and it closed as a pub in March 2020 “after posting an unsustainable loss of over £30K in the previous year (pre Covid) - subsequent to this the owners decided to use the building as a unique holiday let.”  

They have told planners there is a “pressing financial and operational need (Covid 19 aside) to regularise the new use and start generating income to cover the investment. 

“No additional investment is needed to accommodate the new use as all of the bedrooms are already in place. “ 

It is being let through Sykes Cottages and have been told to expect it would be let 28 times in a typical calendar year and that gross income will be £100,000 plus. 

The businessmen hope that with bookings through other agencies they will be able to cater for what feel is “significant demand for the accommodation in this location and that the business model is financially sound”.  

Mr Robinson and Mr Brighty say it will also provide local employment for a cleaner and a meals option could mean work for a local chef.