REAL ale campaigners say they will not stand in the way of plans to replace a disused village pub with homes.

The Sun and Anchor, in Steeple, shut in 2017 after the death of its landlord.

Owners Gray and Sons, who own 20 pubs in the district, now want to redevelop the property, which has stood in The Street since 1940.

The firm wants to build six homes on the site.

The Sun and Anchor also faced competition from the Star pub only 500 metres away.

Gray and Sons said it was a struggle to maintain trade at two pubs in a village of just 500 people.

The Maldon and Dengie branch of the Campaign for Real Ale has been consulted over the plans.

Branch chairman Chris Harvey said: “Camra’s default position on public houses is to prevent closure wherever possible.

“However, after carefully considering the special circumstances in this case, we decided to support Gray with their application.

“We believe that, given the size of the village and its location, one pub adequately serves the needs of the local community and visitors to Steeple.”

He added: “The company is very well-respected by local Camra members for the way in which they invest in these pubs, look after their publicans and ensure there is a good choice of beers for their customers.

“As a pub owning company, they very rarely close or sell their pubs.

“We fully appreciate that in the currently difficult trading environment, Gray and Sons needs to make decisions of this nature in order to sustain and develop their business.”

However, one resident who lives near the pub said it was a sign of the “progressive decline” of rural villages. He said: “Steeple has already lost its village shop and Post Office and it is not good enough to state that the bus services are satisfactory to take residents to other villages and towns to do their shopping.

“Maldon would soon go out of business if it relied solely on the residents of Maldon to support its shops and services.

“Starving villages of their services in order to support other villages and towns is a prime cause of the decline of villages such as Steeple.

“My main concern on the proposed development is the access to the site, which is located on a bend with poor visibility when exiting the site.

“My house is situated near the proposed entrance and since I have lived in the village my side wall has been knocked down three times by collisions with vehicles leaving the road.”

Maldon District Council is expected to rule on the plans by February 16.