Bid to preserve old oyster sheds

HISTORIC oyster sheds in West Mersea could end up becoming a McDonald’s restaurant, the chairman of a heritage society has warned.

The West Mersea Society is fighting plans by Vinocity Ltd to transform the Coast Road building, which was built in the 1860s, into an upmarket 48-seat restaurant called the Oyster Room.

One of the two buildings was the first place on Mersea Island to be connected to the telegraph network; oyster orders sent from London were received here and then relayed by flags to the packing sheds offshore.

The Mersea Island Society claims very little of the existing character of the sheds would be retained.

The society wants to create a heritage centre dedicated to the island’s close connection with the oyster and fishing industries.

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Society chairman Ian Crossley said if the restaurant gets the go-ahead there would be nothing to stop it becoming a fast-food outlet in the future.

“If it does not work out and they decide to sell out, it could become something like a McDonald’s.

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“We would love to have the building, restore it and use it as a heritage centre. We have now been battling against this for 10 years.”

The sheds were purchased by Lay and Wheeler wine merchants in 2002 and its associated company – Vinocity Ltd – has applied for planning from Colchester Borough Council.

The Victorian Society is backing the campaign to stop the development of the sheds. Its conservation adviser, Alex Baldwin, said the plan was “too destructive”.

But Johnny Wheeler, director of Vinocity Ltd, said: “There is a lot of support on Mersea for this but there is, as is often the case, a vocal minority opposed to it.

“This will be one of the most attractive places on the East Coast to go for dinner. It will be a wonderful place to go for lunch as people will be out on the stilts over the water. It’s the only viable option for the sheds.”

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