WHEN businessman Nick Howcroft needed access to a building plot he applied to buy a Little Lever pub car park — but ended up buying the boarded up hostelry as well.

Now the former owner of Castle Builders merchants in Little Lever is the proud owner of Henighans, formerly The Horseshoe, in the village.

The pub has become so successful he is now looking at expanding the Henighans’ brand into other pubs in Bolton and Horwich.

And he plans to use the car park to get access to his building plot at the rear of the pub where he has outline planning permission to build 18 two bed flats.

Mr Howcroft, aged 42, who was born and brought up in Little Lever, said: “I wanted to buy the car park from Hydes Brewery, which owned The Horseshoe pub, but they couldn’t find the deeds.

“Then the pub shut and they said I would have to buy the pub to get the car park, so I thought why not?

“The old pub was rundown and I wanted a place where couples and people could come, be safe and have a drink and that’s what we have achieved here.”

He gutted the pub and spent £150,000 bringing it up to scratch — installing security staff on the door, providing living quarters for landlady Lyn Foster, putting five real ales on the bar.

He also plans to extend the revamped kitchen to provide pub grub.

Mr Howcroft renamed the pub Henighans after a former landlord, ex-Warrington rugby player Michael Henighan.

He said: “Michael ran the pub for years and it was a great pub, so I named it in honour of him and he was really moved by that.”

He added that the pub was now really thriving at the weekends and had introduced darts teams, live music and karaoke.

The car park at the side of the pub will become the main access road to the flats that Mr Howcroft plans to start building next year. A new car park will be built to the rear of the pub.

Mr Howcroft’s first venture into business was to set up Castle Builders supply merchants in Little Lever, which he bought with just £80.

He sourced a ton of top soil for a builder friend and other friends soon started asking him to supply sand, flags and other building materials.

Last year, he sold the business to Graftons PLC in a multi-million pound deal. Mr Howcroft worked for them for a while as a regional director before leaving to pursue his property interests.

And while it is Mr Howcroft’s first venture into the licensed trade, he was surprised to discover from a brewery rep about his great grandfather, who had been very successful in the brewing industry.

He started up Howcroft Brewery at 32 Rothwell Street in Bolton in 1937 and built up a large trade supplying pubs in and around the area.

It later moved to the Model Brewery in Spa Road before merging with Cunningham’s of Warrington in 1969, which led to the brewery ceasing production later that year.