AN historic village pub that was badly damaged by a massive fire is to be rebuilt in the coming months.

Punters in Wheatley who feared that the Grade-II listed King’s Arms might never reopen might now be able to have a drink there very soon as renovation is set to start as early as September.

The owners of the beloved pub, which was engulfed in flames just a week before Christmas, revealed that planning permission has finally been granted to restore the 256-year-old building.

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The popular establishment on Church Road, which dates from 1764, was ruined by the fire on December 17.

Firefighters from Wheatley, Oxford and Thame fire stations rushed to the blaze which broke out just before midday.

There were no customers inside the King’s Arms at the time as the pub had not opened, so no-one was injured in the fire.

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However, the flames caused serious structural damage, particularly to the roof of the building.

Photographs from the day showed the pub surrounded by thick smoke and at least six fire engines on Church Road.

A spokesperson for pub company Hawthorn Leisure, which owns the Kings Arms, explained that the process for approving renovation plans took longer than first anticipated because of the age of the historic building.

The hold-up led some residents in Wheatley to fear that the pub may never reopen.

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However the refurbishment plans have now been approved by South Oxfordshire District Council.

Long-term manager Maria O’Brien will also remain part of the 'core team'.

Ms O’Brien has run the inn for more than 14 years, but since December she has been helping with the management of other pubs in the company.

Hawthorn Leisure director of leased and tenanted operations Andy Parker welcomed the approval of the refurbishment.

He said: “We are grateful to the local authorities for giving us the go-ahead to begin work on renovating the Kings Arms.

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“Maria is a first-class operator, and we are looking forward to getting started on the restoration and working with her to make the Kings Arms better than ever.”

Hawthorn owns more than 700 pubs across England, Scotland and Wales, many of them former Greene King properties.

In Oxfordshire it owns the Abingdon Arms in Wantage, the Six Bells in Kidlington, the George and Dragon in Didcot and the Bat and Ball in Cuddesdon.

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The company said it had been working closely with South Oxfordshire District Council over several months to try to ensure that reconstruction work would start as soon as possible.

The proposed redesign is also set to take into consideration the building’s Grade II-listed status.

Some of the King’s Arms protected features include 'historically important interior mouldings', Hawthorn said.

Some new additions to the building will include the erection of low-level fence to the outside drinking area and a fixed seating bay next to the planter.