Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A case in point

The Ryecroft Arms in Cheadle Hulme provides an excellent case study of the issues surrounding the viability and potential redevelopment of pubs.

It’s a large estate pub, originally built by Wilsons as the Conway to serve an extensive area of mostly fairly salubrious post-war housing development. It stands on the main road through the area rather than being tucked away off the beaten track. Around the turn of the century, it was sold by whatever company Wilsons had eventually metamorphosed into, to Hydes Brewery, who renamed it the Ryecroft Arms and gave it a smart makeover.

They never really seem to make a success of it, and it had a period of being plagued with trouble. So it wasn’t surprising that, in 2008, they submitted plans to demolish it and redevelop the site for housing. However, as I described here, the financial crisis put these plans on hold and gave the pub a stay of execution. The pub was kept ticking over but never received any significant new investment.

Now Hydes have decided to have another bite at the cherry, and have again submitted plans to demolish the pub and built ten houses on the site. As can be seen from the aerial view, there’s a substantial area of car park and garden surrounding the pub building itself. It’s the only pub for at least half a mile in any direction, but this underlines the point that nearby chimneypots are no guarantee of pub success.

As a going concern, Hydes might get £500k at most for it, but in that location ten new houses are likely to sell for £4 million. The construction costs will be less than half that, meaning there’s a massive profit on offer. If we were to listen to so-called “pub champion” Greg Mulholland, Hydes should be forced to sell it to another operator or community group for its valuation as a pub, but what’s to say that in another couple of years’ time the new owners might be equally tempted by the redevelopment value? As with many other pubs in this position, we’re not talking about just a building but also a fair-sized parcel of land.

Now, I’m not saying that nobody would be able to run a profitable pub business at the Ryecroft Arms, but my guess is that the only formula that would work there is family dining, which may not provide too much of an asset for the local community. And there are already plenty of other pubs within a short drive offering the same thing. So I can’t really see the council digging their heels in on this one, or locals clubbing together to try to buy it.

Perhaps the best option for the local community would be for someone to open up a micropub or bar in the parade of shops opposite.

9 comments:

  1. I drink semi-regularly in the Ryecroft Arms as it's the nearest pub which still shows live football (and even then it's over a mile away). It's busy on match days and, unlike me, most of the drinkers seem to be regulars, with the staff and the customers knowing each other by their first names. I know there were a couple of incidents a few years ago, but I wouldn't call it a rough pub. Working-class and wet-led yes, and no doubt as you say much more valuable to Hydes as land on which a developer can build houses, but still a decent community pub, with friendly staff and well-kept, cheap cask beer (recently it's been 1863, a now rare light mild).

    I notice from the planning application that one of the arguments being made by the brewery's representatives is that, as it's in a residential area, houses would fit in more with the surrounding buildings than a pub. That's an argument for knocking down every pub that's got houses near it!

    I fear though that the drinking desert between Cheadle Hulme and Wythenshawe, with few licensed premises that can still be called pubs or sell decent beer, is about to get that bit wider. Anyone who buys a house there won't have a pub of any description within half a mile.

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    1. A smaller pub in that location might do fine - which is why I suggested opening a micropub in the shopping parade.

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    2. A micropub would be better than nothing, but it wouldn't have a games room where you can play pool or darts and a lounge where you can watch football or go to a karaoke night as the Ryecroft Arms does now.

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    3. Micro pub is a good idea, unfortunately there are no empty units in the precinct. Do you think anyone might be considering moving out; I wonder how the dog groomer is doing?

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  2. A family dining pub may be a profitable option, but they most likely wouldn't want to use an old building. Marstons are building a couple around here and they are putting up new buildings rather than using existing ones. Building a modern style pub/restaurant on a greenfield site costs a lot less than they can get by selling an existing building for housing, plus they get a custom-designed pub rather than having to squeeze their restaurant into an existing layout.

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    1. Plenty of existing pubs have been converted to a dining format, including Holts' Griffin at Heald Green which is probably the nearest pub to the Ryecroft.

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  3. The fact that owners are applying for planning permission does not necessarily mean the pub is not viable. It might simply be that they fancy the size of the windfall they'll get from redevelopment.

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    1. Spot on, Nev, that's exactly what's happening here.

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  4. Mudge and Matt make good points about the loss of a particular type of amenity i.e. a proper wet-led pub, and I doubt the local community are going to club together even if the pub was sold as a going concern. Many of these community acquisitions seem to me to be private dining clubs-cum-property investments by rich villagers.

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