Wickham Market: Microbrewery proposals hoped to rejuvenate former Co-op site

Councillor Bryan Hall

Councillor Bryan Hall

Microbrewery proposals have been submitted to rejuvenate a derelict unit in the heart of an east Suffolk village, whose long-term vacancy has become a growing frustration.

The plans, by Graeme Reece, of the Aleyard Brewery, would see part of the former Co-op site in Wickham Market brought back into use – more than two years after it closed.

Community leaders in the village have welcomed the offer and pressed the East of England Co-operative to accept it. So far, however, the organisation has not committed, which has prompted fears it is holding out for an offer to lease the full site.

Nick Denny, the Co-op’s executive officer for property, said the offer was being considered along with “complementary ways to make the whole building commercially viable.”

However, Bryan Hall, the village’s district councillor, said people were growing “exasperated” by the lack of progress. “We are trying to press the Co-op for a decision because it really is a key site in the village,” he said. .

“The microbrewery would be a good way of getting the ball rolling, which is what we need.

“But it seems as though the Co-op is reluctant to let the rear of the site, until it’s received an offer for the front.”

Most Read

Suggestions have also been made for other uses of the premises, including a gallery, a community pub or a bike shop, which could operate alongside the microbrewery.

Although Mr Hall admits these proposals had not progressed far, he said the microbrewery’s acceptance could support their development.

“It’s a case of one step at the time,” he said. “But at the moment the steps aren’t making much movement.”

Mr Reece said he was “definitely interested” in the site but was unsure whether the Co-op would be prepared to sub-divide the unit.

“Wickham Market needs a selection of small businesses to bring more trade into the heart of the town,” he said.

“With the former Co-op building being the largest town centre site available, it is a prime candidate for sub-dividing.

“The project needs someone to give it a kick. Small businesses find it hard to get suitable, affordable premises. Leaving sites like this to rot is just not justifiable.”

Wickham Market Town Team is also keen to see the site brought back into use and supports the microbrewery. Cath Caudwell, who has been leading negotiations on behalf of the Town Team, has suggested splitting the unit to make it more attractive for smaller retailers, but felt the Co-op would prefer to keep it as one.