What do we want? What are we campaigning for?
For generations, The School House Inn, Low Marishes has provided a community hub for the local residents as well as a place of sanctuary for the neighbouring residents and visiting tourists alike. We are extremely proud of our pub and up until its sudden closure in November 2009, it was a regular and frequent outing for all of the villagers and travelling patrons.
Shortly after closing, an application was made to turn the building in to residential accommodation. This meant that the pub and restaurant that we had known all of our lives disappeared along with nearly 120 years of treasured memories.
Whilst we don’t begrudge the failure of The School House Inn as a business, we do strongly oppose redevelopment of the building into houses.
Having had numerous planning applications rejected over the last 3 years, the current owners have apparently altered their application to retain a small area of the pub as a “micro pub”. The danger here is that their application still changes over half the existing pub into housing and there can be no guarantee through the planning process that the area reserved for a micro-pub would ever open. Even if it was to open, it is unlikely that a micro pub would succeed as, selling drink only, it would not attract enough trade. In fact, the owners cited the drink driving ban as a reason for their business’ failure.
Simple business acumen would mean that in order to sustain the business, a restaurant facility would be required and to also bolster the profit, the outbuildings that also belong to The School House Inn could be converted in to holiday lets, permission for doing this was granted in May 2000 (reference 00/00558/FUL , Ryedale District Council).
So in a nutshell, how should it work?
The business needs to remain as a whole. As a country pub in a thriving tourist area, it is large, attractive and welcoming. It is (and has always been) an appealing spot for old and young, families and individuals, locals and tourists and anyone who passes.
In order to succeed, the business needs:
- A well maintained restaurant, providing quality meals to the local and surrounding population, tourists and coach parties,
- A bar area for the local residents and visiting patrons who wish to utilise every aspect of a wonderful country pub,
- Conversion of the outbuildings in to holiday lettings, for the millions of tourists who visit our area each year.
What do we want?
We want to know a firm asking price for the property so we can open fair negotiations to buy the pub on behalf of the community and have it remain as a business. Or as a secondary option, help find a suitable buyer who can turn around the fortunes of the business.
We don’t expect anybody to run a business just because we want them to and we certainly don’t expect anyone to try to run a micro pub just for the community. What we would hope, though, is that The School House Inn is marketed thoroughly and genuinely in order to give it the best chance of surviving for the next 120 years. We are 100% behind anybody who truly wants to run a pub and make it a success for themselves. We then get to keep our community facility.
There is no need for our pub to disappear.
What’s the cost?
This is the problem, the estate agents will not tell us. The pub was purchased for approximately £349,000 in June 2007 which was sold as residential accommodation as well as a business. After the pub closed its doors, the property was completely gutted and the kitchen, bar area as well as other chattels were ripped out and sold by the current owners. Therefore, the property is now in need of full refurbishment.
The current value of the property with it currently trading as a business and in a similar state of repair as it was when it was sold is approximately £300,000. If you deduct the business element from the property as well as the cost of a refurbishment of everything that was ripped out, the realistic value of the property is going to be minimal.
So why can’t it be sold?
The company who are marketing it, Brownill Vickers in Sheffield, are unwilling to name a price to anybody showing an interest in purchasing the property to run it as a business. Having being offered extremely vague “expected offer” prices of around £375,000 (yes, £375,000!), the reason why it cannot be sold is obvious, the estate agents and current owners are not willing to name a firm price and additionally, are offering a price that is considerably higher than it’s worth.
Two seperate residents of the village have already made firm offers for the business which were rejected outright.
There is also a significant amount of confusion surrounding who is actually selling the property. With knowing Matthew & Sarah Richardson, we hoped we could maintain this relationship in order to acquire the details we needed for a potential offer. Upon speaking with the estate agents, we were told;
I do however point out that Mr Richardson is not involved in the decision making process and my client contact has always been with Mr Watkinson, who is Sarah Richardson [sic] father.
- Martin Nicholson, Brownill Vickers, November 2011
So unfortunately, despite Matthew & Sarah Richardson having being the owners of the business, it would appear the decision on the sale rests solely with Mr Watkinson whom has no legal title to the property.
Is the business actually for sale?
You could probably suggest that despite it being marketed, there is no intention to sell the property as a business.
Matthew & Sarah Richardson state that because the business is no longer viable, there is no other option but to convert the property in to residential accommodation. So what would happen if interest was shown or more importantly an offer made?
My client has listened to some of the comments from the councillors who opposed [to accept the planning application] and we believe with some slight alterations to the plans they will find favour with a revised planning application. Therefore you will appreciate the wish to sell the property is no where near as acute as it was when we commenced marketing in 2010 and there is now a real opportunity that the owners will get a cottage out of the property…
- Brownill Vickers, April 2012.
It would appear Matthew & Sarah Richardson are no longer interested in selling the business and allowing it an opportunity to flourish under new ownership anymore.
So to summarise…
Our campaign to save and preserve our pub is not a case of blind ignorance. We are fully aware of the business methods for it to remain open and enjoy success.
A micro pub would never work because the business would never be viable as a drinking establishment only. The pub needs to have a successful restaurant and holiday accommodation for it to remain viable.
We desperately don’t want to lose our pub for both the community and our beloved tourists, and we really appreciate your support.