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Admiral Taverns accept £255,000 for St Neots pub new owner wants to convert to housing

There are 9 other pubs within a one-mile radius

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Two years after listing a Cambridgeshire pub for sale, Admiral Taverns has sold it for £255,000 – 21 per cent less than the original asking price. The Chester based pub company, which owns around 1,600 pubs across the UK, sold The Millers Arms in Ackerman Street, Eaton Socon, St Neots, to London investor James Collins who wants to convert it to residential use.

Supporting his application for change of use to Huntingdonshire District Council, Mr Collins will be buoyed by marketing evidence showing little interest from anyone wanting to re-open it as a pub.

Sidney Phillips, hotel, and licensed agents, confirmed to him it was marketed for continued use as a public house as well as change of use conversion to a home.

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“Sidney Phillips generated 10 viewings, resulting in 2 offers, with the majority of applicants interested in purchasing the property for intended change of use,” the company explained.

“Advertising in the local press was not used as due to the vast expansion of the internet since 2003, this is no longer deemed a cost effective or productive form of advertising in our industry”.

A separate, 11-page viability assessment on behalf of Mr Collins was carried out by property consultants Bruton Knowles.

The Millers Arms, Eaton Socon, St Neots, is described in planning documents as an “attractive semi-detached building over two stories built sometime around the mid 1800’s”.

The Millers Arms, Eaton Socon, St Neots, is described in planning documents as an “attractive semi-detached building over two stories built sometime around the mid 1800’s”.

Their report, whilst agreeing it could remain a pub, points out that The Millers Arms “is in a general poor state of repair.

“The roof appears ok, but there have been some leaks which has led to internal damage to ceilings. The property requires full redecoration throughout.

“The kitchen has been stripped out and would need to be replaced in full. The cellar and toilets are serviceable. The property is likely to require works to the electrics and fire alarm system.

“The gas meter has been removed. In terms of cost estimate we would consider that a figure in the region of £60,000 needs to be allowed for these works”.

But they warn, up to £25,000 would also be required for internal fittings to restore it as a pub.

Bruton Knowles also point out there are 9 other pubs within a one-mile radius “which is a lot given the amount of open land and non-residential land nearby.

“However, perhaps a more important factor in assessing the viability is the change in customer habits whose preference is to now stay at home and drink alcohol purchased at a cheaper price than that available at a public house, or to refrain from alcohol altogether.

“This trend has been growing now for several years and appears irreversible”.

Bruton Knowles says that over the last few years public houses have experienced extremely difficult trading conditions.

Factors include:

1: The introduction of the smoking ban in public houses on 1 July 2007

2: Covid 19 leading to a change in customer behaviour and visits to public houses

3: Aggressive discounting by supermarkets as a loss leader as they strive for market share

4: Increasing beer duty

5: Rising business rates, high inflationary utility, wage, and food cost rises and other overheads

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6: The advent of social media and online communications has refocused the principal meeting point of the community which historically was the pub

7: The impact of current economic conditions and the reduction in customer’s discretionary spending.

“Taken together the effect of is a continued decline in the number of pubs that a given area can realistically support,” says their report.

“The result is that the weaker pub offerings are eventually forced to close as they become unviable.”

It says for The Millers Arms to remain a public house it must be capable of generating a profit on a sustainable basis in the long term.

The Millers Arms, Eaton Socon, St Neots, is described in planning documents as an “attractive semi-detached building over two stories built sometime around the mid 1800’s”.

The Millers Arms, Eaton Socon, St Neots, is described in planning documents as an “attractive semi-detached building over two stories built sometime around the mid 1800’s”.

Bruton Knowles offers some detailed costings, which will be considered by the district council, which concludes that even with investment it would still likely lose around £17,000 a year.

“This is a significant annual loss and unfortunately leads to the view that the business is not viable,” it says.

“Even with an allowance for the fact that living accommodation is provided the wage costs are at the very bottom end of what could be acceptable, and the turnover figures used was at the very top end of what is thought achievable.”

“It is difficult to envisage options which would improve the financial position of the business.

“There are not options for letting accommodation, either within the building or using land for a glamping area or other source of income.

“Given the local competition of established alternative pubs in the near vicinity we do not see the option of creating a specialist food led business or doing something which would substantially increase the turnover.”

“Indeed, from the length of time the Millers Arms has been closed it is likely that previous customers have now established themselves in the alternative local pubs.”

Bruto Knowles added: “Should the Millers Arms reopen it would have a detrimental effect on the trade of these pubs leading to all of them struggling to make a living.

“The Millers Arms is an attractive building has a reasonable layout, floor space and beer garden, though the residential accommodation above is limited.

“However, the pub faces a number of problems: the change in customer behaviours, the rapidly increasing cost base, and the significant number of high-quality competitor pubs in the near vicinity. Even taking figures for a best-case financial scenario the pub could not make enough money to be considered a long-term viable business.

The Millers Arms is described in planning documents as an “attractive semi-detached building over two stories built sometime around the mid 1800’s. It is constructed of stone with a slated roof and two chimneys.

“There is a later ground floor extension to the rear of the property, built around 20 years ago which has a slate roof.

“There is a pleasant large south facing lawned garden area, patio, and undercover smoking area to the rear of the property which together this could provide seating for around 30 covers. The overall site extends to approximately 0.225 acres”.

You can comment on the change of use application by going to the planning section on the Huntingdonshire District Council website and looking for this reference number:

24/00465/FUL | Change of use from public house to residential dwelling. | The Millers Arms 38 Ackerman Street Eaton Socon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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