The Halifax Real Ale Mile runs from the Ring O’Bells along the bottom of town till it reaches the Shears Inn, taking 5 pubs known for a good ale selection. Two of the central pubs on the mile are the most established, namely the Three Pigeons and the Pump Room, two pubs I used to be regular patrons of, although I now tend towards the more central ale pubs of Dirty Dicks and Lewins for various reasons. Of the two, the Three Pigeons had the more traditional decor with an old fashioned network of rooms and snugs coming off the central bar area all lavishly furnished in polished wood, but the Pump Room had a wider beer selection, with slightly more varied range of brewers, along with a very good choice of continental lagers and beers.
However, the Pump Room could soon be no longer if planners Royal London get their way and get permission to build a 3 level shopping centre with 500 parking spaces, entailing its demolition. The centre will have its main frontage on Horton Street, with the current site of the pub marking the rear extremity of the development. Halifax is not a town which needs a major retail development, shops are empty in the centre, and the major stores they hope to attract already hold substantial sites in Huddersfield, Leeds, or at the out of town centres like the White Rose Centre or Birstall, as well as more local out of town complexes less than a mile from the town centre.
The instance of a pub on the site dates to 1791, although not in the original building or with the same name, but the mid 19th century building is significantly older than most of the surrounding buildings, and features the more usual bar and lounge layout. The pub is popular with locals, along with home and visiting sports fans for the rugby and football teams based at the stadium nearby. The pumps number 7 in the lounge and 5 in the bar, although there is a small number of repeats between the two rooms. The look retains a substantial amount of polished timber, but takes a more modern look than the Three Pigeons, a more open layout ensuing. The outside area fronts onto a main road out of the town centre, and is flanked by numerous empty barrels ready for collection.
The developers say they need to demolish the pub to give better access to the development, this weekend I took the opportunity while shopping to see if this is strictly true. On the Horton Road front, only 1 shop of the 3 will be trading very soon with one closed unit and one closing down, this is not down to trade apparently but the failure of the landlord (and developer of new centre) to renew leases. The remaining retailer, Argos, is likely to move into the new development. At the rear there is the current car park serving the town centre, at its rear the garage which neighbours the pub and a training centre and ex service station at the bottom. If they wanted access then the space released by the removal of the garage or ex service station would create this facility, the pub could easily be worked into the plan for the site as it is out on the far edge of the proposed site. The proposed plans for the development can be found here via the planning portal for you to see for yourself. However from these it seems that the entrance will be from a new access road going through the old service station and the Pump Room seems to in the location of several dozen parking spaces on the plans. So the access reason doesn’t seem to stand up and we lose a good pub for car parking.
This would retain a key pub on the Halifax real ale scene and allow the development to take place without much delay. The demolition of the building is likely to cause the most uproar of any of those affected, people very rarely have affection for a car park or 1980s identikit shops. The pub is still extremely viable from a trading point of view and it would have knock on affect for the Three Pigeons, as drinkers often will visit 2 or 3 pubs in an evening, as per the original real ale triangle with the original Royal Oak, now Dirty Dicks. If there is one less reason to head to that area of town then will they bother at all, most will, but it only need a few not to on a regular basis to make a difference to health of the business, the same concerns apply to the football and rugby crowds as well. The Pump Room and Three Pigeons are well known to visiting sports fans for being fan friendly.
I hope the local council take this into consideration when making the decision on the planning application and decide that the pub needs to be kept, us as drinkers need to put pressure on the bodies involved, and the developer needs to see past the profits and introduce a little bit of sense to the plan.