VILLAGERS at Lyonshall are relieved to hear their prolonged five-year thirst could soon be at an end.

After lengthy speculation among locals about the future of the Royal George, a crumbling eyesore in the village centre since closing in 2012, ambitious plans believed to be costing more than £1 million have now been submitted to Herefordshire Council for the Grade II listed pub set to make Lyonshall a destination point in its own right.

Bucking a trend for rural pub closures, local farmer Kinsey Hern’s proposals include a pub, restaurant, shop, cinema, play barn and café.

The comprehensive ‘village centre’ could bring jobs and revitalise the community, it’s believed.

On Monday, July 3, Mr Hern will be attending a meeting of Lyonshall Parish Council to answer questions from councillors and members of the public.

He admitted it has been a “difficult three years” in planning and design since he bought the pub, a tactic aimed at stopping previous owners Punch Taverns from building a house on the car park.

“We now think we are in a position to safeguard the future of the Royal George for Lyonshall, and create something well-used and valued by the local community and surrounding area,” he said.

“Rural pubs are struggling to get by, so we were absolutely intent on designing and building a local pub and complementary business able to stand on its own feet.”

He continued: “We still do not have planning permission, so in terms of an opening date, it is extremely difficult to put any markers down yet. We shall make every effort to get it open asap.”

Parish council chairman, Councillor Paul Avery said he was “absolutely thrilled” about the plans, though understood local frustrations as the project had been stalled for several years. A parish council questionnaire revealed that 85 per cent of villagers wanted a village hub for Lyonshall.

“It has taken a long time, but planning has taken a long time too,” he said.

“This is the culmination of a long battle to get it right and frankly, we need this in the village. This is first and foremost a village pub, but these plans are going to make Lyonshall more of a destination.”

Plans include restoration of the pub’s 16th century oak frame, provision for ‘pub grub’, darts and quoits, as well as a skittle alley, a shop, open during pub hours, restaurant and a 50-seat cinema for film shows or business conferencing. To optimise space, an underground kitchen and party room are on the cards, and an indoor play area with a cafe for children. Land opposite the pub has already been acquired for car parking.

“There will be a lot of jobs coming from this, and a lot of things going on in the pub,” said Councillor Avery. “This is a major project, nothing has been done to the pub for years, and these are properly sustainable plans bringing in a variety of footfalls.”

He praised Mr Hern for “investing for the long-term”, adding: “He and his family want to live in Lyonshall for ever and a day.” The plans would make the pub work financially. “He’s doing this to last for 100 years,” said Councillor Avery.

The village needed “a bit of life and ongoing expansion”, he believed, referring to housing plans for Lyonshall. “The development plans will maintain the character of the village, all the houses will be built in an individual design.

“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been for a long time.”