By Steve Hemsley Rising property prices may mean Tadcaster Pub Company falls short of its target of acquiring 40 pubs in Yorkshire, the north east and the north midlands by the end of the year. The company has a budget of £20m to build an estate of 60 pubs over two years and in 2002 it bought 17 sites at an average cost of £230,000. Yet its 20th and most recent acquisition, the Bridge House Hotel at Catterick Bridge in North Yorkshire, was the most expensive so far, costing more than £600,000 earlier this month. "The property market is very difficult now and prices are very high. This hotel would have cost around £1m if it was functioning the way it should have been. We want to have 40 pubs this year, but we will not buy places for the sake of it. We have a business plan and an investment pot so it all depends on how much we spend on each pub," said managing director James Crawfurd-Porter. Crawfurd-Porter formed Tad-caster in January last year. He was formerly a director at pub group Commer Inns, which sold its stable of 75 pubs to Punch for £19m at an average of £253,000 each. Commer Inns founder and pub entrepreneur Jim Walsh has since invested £3m in Tadcaster and taken on the role of chairman. At the end of last year, Tad-caster bid £7.5m for the 28 pubs being sold by the Nice Pub Co which were picked up by Thwaites Brewery for £11.2m, or £400,000 per pub. Crawfurd-Porter is confident the company will find suitable premises in its target area by working with its tenants. "Many of the tenants we know are from Commer and they are helping us to select suitable premises. Tadcaster is more upmarket, but we are still interested in a cross-section on pubs and are still buying real drinking houses. Our rule is we demand a 20% gross return on our investment," he said.