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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.