‘One of the best and and most renowned’ pubs in Stockport is facing demolition after plans for a new store were backed for approval.
The Railway, in Portwood, was named CAMRA’s pub of the year in 2007 and is regularly featured in its national Good Beer Guide.
But the hostelry – on the corner of Avenue Street and Great Portwood Street – has been trading under a shadow since permission to pull it down was granted 15 years ago.
READ MORE: Plans to move historic library take step forward as council claims ‘clear support’ for £14m hub plan
And now it appears time could finally be up for the much-loved boozer, after planning chiefs recommended councillors sign off on a scheme that will also see nearby Carpetright levelled.
Developer Morbaine Ltd wants to knock down the two buildings to make way for a new retail unit providing 1472 sq m of floorspace, split between the ground floor and a mezzanine level.
The firm – which bought the half-acre site with Kirkland Developments in 2006 – said it had always intended to demolish the pub as it was ‘in very poor condition’ and is now ‘beyond economic repair.
The newsletter that brings Manchester’s political news, investigations – and a bit of gossip – straight to you
Sign up to our Manchester Memo newsletter to keep abreast of the major political issues of the week – and a few of the others that may have slipped below the radar.
How do I sign up?
- First just click on this link to our newsletter sign-up centre.
- Once you’re there, put your email address where it says at the top, then tick the MEN Politics box. There are other newsletters available if you want them as well.
- When you’ve made your choice, hit Save Changes button at the bottom.
But a dozen objections have been lodged against the application, which seemingly sounds the death knell for the popular watering hole.
Opponents include Councillor Will Dawson, who says The Railway has been ‘the bedrock of the recent revival of the Stockport pub and real ale scene’.
In a written representation to the council, he adds: “I am deeply concerned about the loss of one of the best, and most renowned pubs in Stockport – with significant social and cultural benefits to the community – to be replaced by another unnecessary retail unit.”
The councillor claims there are ‘dozens of empty retail units’ in the town centre, while ‘technological and societal shifts’ – together with the pandemic – make the scheme ‘a risky venture’.
“How can building another be more important than a thriving and successful pub, a significant part of the social fabric in Stockport and the lives of many of our citizens?” Coun Dawson continues.
He has also queried whether the planning permission from 2005 is still valid. However planning officers confirm it is by virtue of a ‘start being made on the development involving foundation excavations’ – which was confirmed by the council in 2010.
HIs sentiments are echoed by the chairman of Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA, who is also quoted in the report.
He states: “Stockport has lost many pubs over the years but those that remain are helping drive the local economy forward and I would expect them to remain a local economic driver next year as the town emerges from the pandemic.
“To remove the Railway from that picture would be a backward step and we urge you not to take it.”
But the applicant says that – while understanding regulars at The Railway feel ‘very strongly’ about the proposals – there is ‘simply no option’ to retain the building in the medium to long term as it is beyond economic repair.
“This is not a case of an opportunist developer coming along and wanting to demolish a perfectly good public house to make way for new development,” a spokesperson said..
What do you make of the plans? Have your say below
“The pub has been under the control of the applicant for over 20 years, during which time they have spent significant sums of money to keep the facility going despite the fact that the structural integrity of the building means that it cannot be saved.”
A report that goes before the council’s planning committee on Thursday night advises members that the strength of the applicant’s fall-back position – meaning the existing permission – is ‘overwhelming’.
It advises the panel that only ‘very limited’ weight should be given to the loss of the pub – and it should not be the key factor when it comes to deciding whether to grant planning permission.
Vehicles access to the site would be from the Great Portwood Street roundabout and there would be 28 car parking spaces – including four disabled bays and four electric vehicle-charging spaces.
The plans also include a further eight covered cycle spaces and two motorcycle bays.
A pedestrian route across the site from Great Portwood Street to Brewery Street would also be provided in the scheme, as currently none exists.
The planning committee is recommended to grant planning permission subject to conditions and the developer agreeing a £9,500 payment to fund traffic regulation orders on Great Portwood Street, Avenue Street, Brewery Street and Richard Street.
Carpetright indicated in 2019 that it would seek alternative premises in Stockport should planning permission for the retail unit be granted.
Stockport council’s planning and highways committee meets at Fred Perry House on Thursday evening (August 19).
Sign up to the MEN email newsletters to get the latest on sport, news, what’s on and more by following this link