VILLAGERS battling to keep a pub open are delighted that Wiltshire Council has turned down plans to turn it into a house.

But Janet and Andy Southorn, who own the George and Dragon in Erlestoke, near Devizes, are heartbroken that they continue to live in limbo.

Mrs Southorn said: "We really don't know what we are going to do now. I don't know if we will appeal. The only option might be to try and sell it as a pub. We were very disappointed our plan was turned down and it leaves us in a difficult situation."

The couple and much of the village have been at odds about its future for nearly two years since the Southorns decided they could not make a go of the pub and applied for permission for it to become a house.

A fiery village meeting was held and earlier this year the parish council got the pub declared a community asset and offered the couple £240,000, later upped to £250,000, to buy it.

But this was rejected by the Southorns who paid £300,000 for the pub in 2013 and then spent tens of thousands more doing it up.

This week Mark Foster from Erlestoke Hub said: "We are very pleased the council refused to give permission. We still very much want to buy the pub and turn it into something for all the community.

"It could include a shop and become a meeting place for all sorts of groups. It is the only community building, apart from the church, left in the village.

"We believe the pub can be made into a viable business. If the pub was lost there would be nothing left."

He said that another couple had also shown interest in taking over the pub and he was optimistic the pub could be saved.

But Mrs Southorn said before the planning meeting was held that the family felt let down by the village who had originally shown a lot of support when they first opened but then did not become regulars.

The pub finally closed in April, 2015, and the couple have continued to live in the residential quarters upstairs.

Mr Foster and members of the parish council say the Southorns did not make best use of the letting room on the side of the pub to help boost their income.

But Mrs Southorn said that lack of parking made it difficult for them to be used for bed and breakfast.