CAMPAIGNERS who battled to save the historic Manor House pub in Otley have vowed to fight on in the face of the building being sold off.

Otley Pub Club and Otley Community Pub Group were devastated when the Grade II Listed Building was sold off by owners Daniel Thwaites of Blackburn for “alternative use”.

The two groups and other campaigners had joined together to pressure Daniel Thwaites to sell the building to someone who would keep it going as a pub.

But despite offers on the table from an award-winning Yorkshire brewery who wanted to keep it as a going concern at the heart of the community, the company went with an undisclosed bidder.

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 campaigners say they have been refused information on the new owner and what they plan to do with the building, which dates back to the 19th Century, on the grounds of a “confidentiality agreement” between Daniel Thwaites and the successful bidder.

But they say they will continue to fight and will be will be objecting to any planning applications to convert or redevelop the pub, urging others to do the same.

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.”

The campaigners add that the national 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 they say 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.

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.”

A spokesperson from Daniel Thwaites said: “After being on the market for over 12 months and having engaged in numerous offers including a sale agreement which unfortunately did not progress, we can confirm that The Manor House pub in Otley has been sold. Whilst we do not have any other pubs in Otley, we will continue to plough investment into our current estate of pubs across Yorkshire and the rest of the North of England.”

The Manor 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.