New proposals put forward to revive former Co-op building in Wickham Market

The Co-op's new site in Wickham Market

The Co-op's new site in Wickham Market - Credit: Archant

Hopes are growing that a former supermarket, which has been dormant in the centre of an east Suffolk village for the past two years, may be returned to use.

The East of England Co-operative has agreed to consider offers to lease part of its old site in Wickham Market, which community leaders believe to be more attractive to prospective tenants.

Wickham Market Town Team, which has been holding talks with the Co-op to bring the building back into use, is now considering taking on the part-lease to set up a business “emporium”.

The venture would see about a dozen small start-up companies, such as jewellers, craftsmen and clothes retailers, share the space in a similar fashion to Style at Stow in Stowmarket.

Town Team chairman Colin Owens, who met with the Co-op on Monday, said the Co-op’s decision to consider offers on part of the site was “positive news”.

“It’s become evident that the Co-op could not lease it as a whole but to get maximum benefit for them and the community we are now working together to fill it,” he said.

“We’ve looked again at the idea of opening an emporium along the lines of Style at Stow and we are investigating what the cost of that would be.

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“It’s a model that’s proved to be a real success in Stowmarket and it will be readily transferable to Wickham Market.”

The Co-op’s relocation to premises out of the village centre happened around the same time as Seagers – another major store in Wickham Market – closed its doors for good.

It was feared the double blow would lead to the demise of the village centre, which led to the Town Team’s creation to help regenerate the economy.

Over recent months a number of new shops have opened in the village, and the monthly market has announced plans to take place twice as often from this spring.

Mr Owens hopes the latest progress over the Co-op will help continue the village’s retail resurgence.

“The Co-op has a vision to support local communities and the Town Team is a community organisation,” he said.

“It’s the community’s effort and energy that is making something happen that’s appropriate for the village, to open a store, that’s attractive and that will bring people into the village. The emporium will offer the right quality of merchandise and the right mix of merchandise to work in Wickham Market.”

It is not yet known what the other part of the lease may be used for.

Previous suggestions for a microbrewery had been put forward in October, but stalled when the Co-op appeared reluctant to consider offering only part of the lease.

Nick Denny, executive officer for property at the Co-op said: “We are pleased to be working together with Wickham Market’s town team as we explore the options for this property. Whilst we continue to market the building as a whole, we are also open to expressions of interest from those looking to lease part of the site.”

Expressions of interest can be made to the Co-op via www.eastofengland.coop/property, by emailing team@ews-eastanglia.co.uk or by calling 01473 216200.