"It would be like losing my family": Pub regulars upset at plans to convert popular 'estate boozer' into nursery

A popular ‘estate pub’ that has served its community for around 60 years is under threat of closure after plans emerged to convert it into a children’s nursery. The Cotton Tree Hotel, which has been serving punters in the School Hill area of Bolton since the mid-1960s, is the subject of a planning application lodged last week from The Nest Therapy Ltd to convert the pub building into a children’s nursery with a perimeter fence.

The building, just north of Bolton town centre, is still running, but has been marketed in recent months by its owners on property websites for around £295,000. The Prince Street boozer has an attached function room which has hosted countless wedding receptions, funeral wakes and other celebrations over the decades.

A recent post on a Bolton centred Facebook nostalgia group about the pub garnered dozens of affectionate memories of the Cotton Tree. Those posting their thoughts described fond recollections of country and western nights, rock shows and karaoke evenings.

READ MORE: 'Everyone thinks Stockport is posh - but on this street shoplifting is constant'

Several recalled their wedding receptions being held upstairs, many from the pub’s ‘heyday’ in the 1970s. Bolton pipe band used to practice upstairs in the 1980s with the thirsty pipers then retiring for a beer downstairs and those who worked at the nearby Wallis and Hartley mill would go in there on Friday afternoons to make a dent in their wage packets.

To this day, the pub welcomes dozens of veterans on Armistice Day who call in for a pint or two and to swap stories after parading to mark the borough’s commemorations and the pub’s clientèle and management proudly support several varying charities.

With several estate pubs closing every month as people’s social habits change, the Local Democracy Reporting Service paid a visit to the Cotton Tree early on a Wednesday evening to ask customers what it would mean to lose the only pub in the neighbourhood.

It would be fair to say the unpretentious Cotton Tree has seen better days. The exterior of the building looks a little run down, but that is more than made up for by the warm welcome inside.

There is a healthy amount of people, around 20, in the neat and tidy main lounge and the atmosphere is convivial and jokey with clanking pool balls punctuating the laughter and conversation. After paying the princely sum of £3.60 for a pint of premium lager the pub’s regulars are only to keen to tell me what the place means to them.

Dave Williams, who lives in School Hill has been a regular since he moved to the area eight years ago. “I call in for a pint or two after work a few times a week, he said.

“It’s a friendly place and most people know each other. This pub welcomes strangers, it welcomes everybody. “If a person came in for the first time, went outside and left their phone on a table for four hours nobody would touch it.

Join the Manchester Politics WhatsApp group here

We look after each another. “If the pub closes I don’t know what I’ll do – probably just stay in the house more.” Frank, 70, lives nearby and has been a Cotton Tree regular for 43 years.

He said: “I’d be upset if this place closes, it’s a big part of my life, it is my social life. “The folk in here are all my friends and if it closes it would be like losing touch with members of my family. “I know I wouldn’t see most of them again.”

Janice Slater, 54 and her partner James Stewart, 57, travel to the Cotton Tree from their home in Kearsley, around four miles away. Janice, said: “There’s a sense of community here and we care about each other. Everybody has issues and here you can talk to someone about it and have a laugh. Hearing about the plans for the building has upset me.”

James said: “It’s a focal point for this whole neighbourhood, a place that still brings people together. I had my 50th birthday party here and there’s been so many celebrations like that, weddings and parties that people have have come together and had a good time.

“Once pub’s like this are gone they’re gone forever. If it goes it will be a big, big, loss for hundreds of people.”

A man still in his oil stained work clothes. “I travel miles from where I live in Breightmet to come here. I do that because it’s a proper pub, a proper local, and there soon won’t be any left.”

Planners at Bolton Council will decide on the change of use planning application at a date to be decided.