Developers and pub culture: rewriting the narrative
The number of pubs in the UK has decreased by more than 25% in the last two decades, presenting opportunities for developers to step in and provide much-needed homes on vacant sites, according to Alderley Group.
In Padgate, a suburb to the east of Warrington town centre, the company is redeveloping the site of Chevys Sports Bar, which has been closed for the last five years. Alderley Group hopes to provide not only homes, all of which will be earmarked as affordable, but also jobs for local people during the development. At present, 100% of the supply chain is North West-based.
Chevys shut down amid dwindling customer numbers. It has lain vacant since, occupying a prominent site on the corner of Manchester Road and Padgate Lane, opposite Warrington Cemetery.
“Pub closures began on a pandemic scale around the time of the 2008 financial crash, when spending in pubs dropped with the recession,” the Guardian reported in 2015, two years before Chevys shut its doors for the last time.
In 2020, when a literal pandemic took hold, an estimated 10,000 licenced premises closed.
While the demise of pub culture has, in some people’s opinion, ripped the souls out of communities, it has presented opportunities for the property market.
That same Guardian article painted a picture of a “plague of developers…ransacking pubs for profit”.
Indeed, the downward trajectory of the pub industry has piqued the attention of companies and individuals who saw the money-making opportunities presented by this section of the real estate market.
These developers are often portrayed negatively. However, by stepping in to bring these pubs back into use, they are at least providing a solution to two problems that are not going away: the decline of pub culture and the housing crisis.
Alderley Group is determined to show the local community that it is there to do good by adopting various initiatives aimed at supporting the local community.
“We are currently running a work experience and apprenticeship scheme with the local colleges in Warrington,” said an Alderley Group spokesperson.
“We are also working with Fareshare, a charity based in Liverpool that we have enlisted to identify community groups in the immediate surrounding area who are not receiving enough support.”
Five years ago, social value was an afterthought. Now it is a crucial part of the development process as local councils become more discerning about what gets built and who is building it.
The social value element of a project is arguably even more relevant when it comes to redeveloping former pubs.
Acquiring pubs brings with it an added sense of responsibility. They provided a lot to those who used them. A place to meet, eat, drink, and socialise.
Developers have a duty, therefore, to squeeze as much social value from their pub redevelopments as possible.
“We are making a positive difference by continuing our partnership with local charities and providing local labour and suppliers with tender opportunities,” the Alderley spokesperson said.
“We also recognise we can make a positive difference to the local youth by providing apprenticeship and work experience schemes through local colleges.”
While squeezing as much social value from the Chevys redevelopment as possible is important to Alderley Group, fundamentally the project is about creating places for local people to live.
The project, dubbed Marsh House, will see the creation of 23 one-bedroom affordable apartments as well as seven with two bedrooms.
Statistics calculated by the ONS last year found that the gap between the average salary and house prices in Warrington was at its widest since records began.
These figures demonstrate an increased need for affordable homes in the borough. Once complete, registered provider Torus will operate the homes.
The Chevys scheme is the second time the two companies have worked together in Warrington.
On Town Hill, Alderley is currently on site delivering 39 homes on the former Lloyds Bank site, while a further 24 are coming forward on Palmyra Square.
“As the largest provider of affordable housing in the North West, creating a diverse pipeline of developments that feature a myriad of tenures is essential,” said Chris Bowen, managing director of Torus Developments.
“Working with partners that truly prioritise the creation of affordable homes is central to our approach and I’m thrilled that at least a further 92 affordable homes will be built in conjunction with Alderley Group.”
Such has been the success of its partnerships with Torus and other registered providers elsewhere in the North West, Alderley will aim to fill its pipeline only with affordable housing developments going forward.
“We will not be looking at any private sales schemes as we remain focused on doing our part to combat the housing crisis,” the spokesperson said.
Pub culture may have changed dramatically in the last decade, but partnerships like the one between Torus and Alderley Group aim to give the sites back to the community long after ‘last orders’ has been called.
- Alderley Group delivers high-quality, affordable housing and mixed-use developments in partnership with local housing associations. Learn more about the company at alderley-group.com.