Joint Press Release from Otley Pub Club & Otley Community Pub Group – pictured are President of Otley Pub Club Greg Mulholland and Lisa Herries, co-ordinator of Otley Community Pub Group outside the Manor House Pub
7th November 2023
Otley pub campaigners slam Thwaites over neglect and loss of the historic Manor House pub in Otley
Otley Pub Club and Otley Community Pub Group have each slammed Thwaites following the news that the historic Manor House has been sold to an undisclosed bidder for alternative use.
The news was confirmed to Otley Pub Club by Thwaites (Daniel Thwaites of Blackburn), who had previously ignored several emails from the club and community and have recently ignored another expression of interest from an interested local brewery. In April, Thwaites didn’t even respond to enquiries from the news editor of the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer about the pub and its future.
Earlier this year, Thwaites refused a revised offer from an award-winning Yorkshire brewery, who wanted to buy the pub, properly invest in it and give it an exciting future at the heart of the community. Surveys have shown the appalling state that Thwaites had left the building in, with a cost of repairs of over £130,000 and with damage to the inside of the building as a result of the roof, which Thwaites have known needed repairing several years ago. Despite knowing this, Thwaites refused a fair offer from the brewery and instead have accepted another bid and are claiming not to be able to comment due to a ‘confidentiality agreement’, which appears to confirm that the historic Manor House will be destroyed forever unless the Council stands firm and refuses planning permission.
The same brewery whose offer was turned down in February recently made contact with Thwaites, making clear they were still interested at a sensible and fair price, but they didn’t hear back at all. On Friday 27th October another small Yorkshire brewery had arranged an appointment to view the pub, but that same afternoon Thwaites estate agents claimed that they “couldn’t find the keys” meaning the appointment never went ahead. Another local licensee offered to take a lease on the pub, but Thwaites said they weren’t interested and would only sell it.
Thwaites have previously been strongly criticised for selling off a pub with a restrictive covenant, preventing it ever being a pub again, something that national pub campaigners and MPs have said should be illegal.
The Manor, which dates back to the 19th Century, is named after Thomas Constable’s impressive grade II listed home and a tribute to how Thomas Constable and his sister helped Irish refugees feeling An Gorta Mór in the 19th century and moved to Otley to start new lives, with several of the Irish families later becoming publicans. In recent years, the pub has featured a bust and a portrait of Thomas Constable to celebrate this important Otley history.
The fact that Thwaites turned down a reasonable bid as for the Manor as a pub shows that it is clearly a viable pub. Otley Pub Club will be objecting to any applications to convert or redevelop the pub, which is a Grade II listed building and will be urging others to do the same.
The national campaign group, Campaign for Pubs has called for a change in the law that would prevent any historic pub being lost where there is a viable bid as a pub, something that would have saved the Manor and seen it re-open under better and local ownership. The Give Pubs Protection policy would mean that any historic pub up for sale would have to be marketed and sold at the independently valued price as a pub and that owners could not sell them to developers for a higher value.
Greg Mulholland, President of Otley Pub Club said:
“Otley Pub Club is appalled that the historic Manor House pub has been sold for alternative use, when it could and should have a bright future as a pub. It is heartbreaking that when an excellent local brewery is prepared to invest very significant amounts of money to repair and refurbish the Manor, that Thwaites refused their offer. Thwaites have known for several years that the roof was in need of repair and the damage this has done has been significant. Thwaites should be ashamed both of their neglect of this historic building and their decision to refuse the brewery bid”.
“We will be making clear to the new owners and to Leeds City Council that planning permission must not be given, when there has been this interest, showing it is viable if sold at a fair price”.
Lisa Herries, Coordinator of the Otley Community Pub group said:
“We are devastated that the famous Manor House could be lost, when it is a clearly a viable pub. For years, right up until Covid, it was a popular and successful pub, a real community local with live music and a wonderful fire. It just isn’t right that Thwaites have sold it when they have had offers as a pub and the support of the community in seeing it re-open.
“We urge the new owners to meet with the community and work with us to keep the Manor as a pub rather than unnecessarily destroying this much loved local asset and important part of Otley’s history”.
James Watson, Pub Protection Officer of the national Campaign for Pubs said:
“It is national scandal that we are losing historic and viable pubs like the Manor House in Otley, despite there being operators wanting to buy them, properly invest in them and keep them as pubs serving their communities.
“Far too many pubs nationally have suffered years of neglect and underinvestment, with pub companies taking their rent and wet rent, but without properly maintaining these heritage buildings. The Government must listen and act and introduce our Give Pubs Protection policy to stop this and to give every historic pub the chance of positive new ownership”.