Historic pub in Wolverhampton facing demolition under Lidl plan

A historic Bilston pub is facing demolition following proposals by supermarket giant Lidl to build a major new flagship store in the town.

The Swan Pub in Bilston could be knocked down
The Swan Pub in Bilston could be knocked down

The Swan in High Street, which dates back to 1898, will fall victim to bulldozers if the German-based retail chain is given the go-ahead to build a larger store on the site of its existing premises.

Despite the landmark pub’s long existence, heritage bosses have said the once popular watering hole – which closed in June this year – is of little real significant historic interest.

In a report submitted to Wolverhampton Council planners alongside the application, Sarah Watt, Director of Asset Heritage, said: “The site lies over 400m from the boundary of the Bilston Town Centre Conservation Area and does not form part of its immediate physical setting.

“The majority of it is comprised of car parking with the existing food store. The Swan is of relatively low heritage interest and demolition will result in better-defined access to the car park.”

Lidl entered into pre-application discussions with the council in September 2020. The pub was previously owned by Marston’s Brewery and operated on a tenancy arrangement until it was purchased by the retailer in June 2021.

An artist's impression of how the new Lidl superstore in High Street, Bilston, will look. Image: Whittam Cox Architects

In a further supporting statement Jake McLeod, from Cheshire-based Walsingham Planning, the agents acting on behalf of Lidl, added: “The site is currently occupied by the existing Lidl, a pharmacy and Subway fast food restaurant at ground floor level and office space at first floor level.

“An adjacent McDonald’s and its associated drive-thru and car park is also accessed via the site. The redevelopment will include two new commercial units to accommodate the pharmacy and Subway.

“The existing foodstore was formerly a Co-op and was one of Lidl’s first stores in the region. It is now very dated and offers a poor customer experience.

“As a consequence of this, Lidl has concluded that the appropriate approach is to provide a new modern, purpose-built food store,” said the report.

“The proposed new store will employ up to 40 staff. Lidl has a policy of employing local people from all backgrounds to work at their stores in a range of positions and levels of seniority.

“This allows for a short commute to work and a range of training opportunities for local people.

An aerial view of how the new Lidl superstore in High Street, Bilston, will look. Image: Whittam Cox Architects.

“The Swan is a small pub and we understand from Marston’s that even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not a sustainable business.

“Beer sales were very low with average of 186 barrels per annum sold between 2016 and 2019,” said Mr McLeod.

“It had earnings of £30,000 before interest and tax per annum over the last five years, which is not profitable or viable.”

The plans also include allowance for 119 car parking spaces, seven disabled spaces, eight parent and child spaces, two electric vehicle charger spaces and 12 cycle storage bays.

Wolverhampton planners will decide on the application in the near future.

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