A pub landlord is urging people to return to their local in an effort to dispel rumours that it will be knocked down and replaced with housing.

The Wheatsheaf, in Maldon Road, Hatfield Peverel, was taken over by community pub company Hawthorn Leisure in November last year and installed new landlord, Paul Baker.

Paul, who used to live just 100 yards away from the Wheatsheaf, says he is planning to make place the pub at the heart of the community once again despite doubts in the village about its long-term future.

It is thought building work on seven homes on land next to the Wheatsheaf has caused some residents to believe the pub will soon be demolished as part of the scheme.

But Paul insists this is not the case and he is calling on revellers to return their much-loved watering hole.

He said: "I knew when I took on The Wheatsheaf that the building work would begin just days later, but hadn’t anticipated quite so much disruption.

"Site traffic, including lorries, and the wet weather we’ve had has meant it’s all got quite messy.

"Then there are the rumours going about that the pub is actually closed, and will be demolished once the housebuilding is finished.

"That couldn’t be further from the truth, and I want to reassure people that we’re still very much open for business, and we’d love to be able to welcome villagers who thought we’d closed back through the door.

"We’d love to see local groups and organisations make use of our function room, which is just the right size for smaller events.”

Paul has launched a new menu at the pub after picking a team of 12, which includes two chefs, waitresses and part-time bar staff.

He plans to launch a cheaper bar meals menu in the short-term but says there are much bigger improvements in the pipeline.

He added: "The Wheatsheaf is very much alive and kicking.

"We’ve got a large new car park at the rear, a new garden area is being planned, and we’ll soon be having local darts and football teams using the bar. This place has got lots of potential, and we want to involve villagers in making it a real community hub."