A determined campaign to save a popular Ellesmere Port pub is making progress.
Fears were raised last month that The Grace Arms on Stanney Lane appeared set to follow others in the town in closing its doors prompted by Birkenhead-based Magenta Living announcing plans for up to 42 apartments ‘on land at Stanney Lane’.
A letter to Stanney Lane residents inviting them to a 90-minute consultation in the town’s West Cheshire College campus, which did not mention The Grace, sparked a flurry of posts on Ellesmere Port’s Pride in the Port website about the possible loss of the Greene King-owned pub.
Magenta has teamed up with north Cheshire based Lane End Developments which specialises in new build for registered housing providers.
Lane End’s application for the apartments in two blocks on the land occupied by The Grace is now with borough planners.
But the prospect has led to objections and to the creation of a ‘Save the Grace Arms’ Facebook campaign which has already attracted nearly 650 ‘likes’.
Activists say they have made ‘some headway’ with regards to protecting the pub ‘and thanks to our friends at the Campaign for Real Ale’ the submission of an Asset of Community Value application ‘is nearly there’.
The campaign comments: “As proud residents of Ellesmere Port we have a duty to protect our heritage so that future generations, wherever they come from, can enjoy it and know of its foundations.
“We are quickly losing the identity of this town to ugly, template developments which will not be fit for purpose in 40 years’ time and have not been designed with our town in mind.
“As our parents and grandparents created the footholds for this town we have a duty to protect their voices and hard work. The only thing that is left of them is historic buildings such as this which we need to protect to ensure that our children know where they came from and that new-comers to the town see Ellesmere Port’s identity through its history.”
Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders (Lab) has also raised the wider issue of pub closures in Parliament mentioning The Grace.
He told the House: “The Grace Arms is a well-known landmark on the drive into Ellesmere Port town centre but its existence is under threat from property developers.
“Many in the area are deeply concerned by the potential loss of this much-loved community facility so may we have a debate on what more the Government can do to support local pubs?”
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom (Con, South Northamptonshire) replied ‘I know we all go to great lengths to support our local pubs’ and added: “It is right that we should do so because they really are at the heart of all our communities.”
She suggested Mr Madders might want to consider applying for an adjournment debate.
Agents argue the three storey blocks will raise the architectural quality of the area and offer a choice in housing.
The 18 one bed and 24 two bed apartments will create ‘high quality housing’ which will provide ‘much needed’ new homes allowing local people to remain living and working in their own neighbourhood.
The drop-in consultation is said to have been attended by 35 residents, members of staff and regular customers with the main objection being the closure of the pub ‘exacerbated by the brewery chain not advising either the staff or patrons The Grace was for sale’.
Magenta was told there were concerns about the loss of a social asset as there are a limited number of suitable public houses in the area.
At Magenta, community regeneration chief Jamie Martin said at an earlier stage: “Magenta Living are currently in negotiation with Lane End Developments regarding the construction of 42 apartments for affordable rent on Stanney Lane, Ellesmere Port.
“Lane End have approached Greene King brewery regarding the acquisition of the site and the intention is for Magenta Living to be landlord of the completed homes.
“If the acquisition and construction proceeds this project will bring Magenta Living’s investment in affordable homes in Ellesmere Port to nearly £20m since 2014.” Greene King commented: “As a leading pub operator and brewer we are committed to running high quality community pubs. To be able to continue to invest in our estate from time to time we have to make the difficult decision to sell a pub.
“After much consideration we decided to put The Grace Arms on the market.
The Grace ‘remains open for business as usual’ and the pubco says it will endeavour to help all team members affected to find positions at other Greene King pubs in the area.