Council agrees to sell Corn Exchange

COUNCILLORS last night voted to accept an offer of £250,000 for their town's Corn Exchange from developers, sparking fears that it will be lost to the community forever.

By John Howard

COUNCILLORS last night voted to accept an offer of £250,000 for their town's Corn Exchange from developers, sparking fears that it will be lost to the community forever.

Stowmarket Town Council, meeting in their chambers in Milton Road South, voted by seven to four to sell the building in Church Walk and pour money into the council's coffers, funding a potential spending spree.

Top of the list are improvements at the Regal Theatre and the town's community centre.


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Gordon Paton, town councillor, said: “We should accept this offer. We bought it 13 years ago for £50,000 for the community and planned to celebrate the Millennium by creating a community hall.

“But there has been a legal dispute and structural problems, and our project was not successful.”

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And David Whybrow, town councillor, said it was in the best interest of taxpayers to sell off the building.

But Marilyn Finbow, a councillor who served on the council when it bought the exchange and whose dreams of converting it into public use are now in tatters, said: “To sell off our assets is dreadfully wrong.”

Keith Scarff, town councillor, added: “There is much public disquiet about selling this building, this town continues to grow.

“There are huge developments coming and public use will be found for the exchange. It's a shame to sell it.”

But it emerged last night that any development could be strictly controlled, as English Heritage have been approached about listing the building.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage said: “We have received an application to list the Corn Exchange at Stowmarket and one of our inspectors will visit the property shortly to make their assessment.

“We will then advise the Department for Culture Media and Sport for the Secretary of State to make the final decision on listing the building.”

Richard Ward, director for the Suffolk Preservation Society, is among those supporting the move to list it and he said: “We feel it warrants being listed, it's in the town centre and has some classic architecture. “If listed its exterior and interior which are important would be preserved and protected, whatever new use is found for it.”

The future use of the building remains uncertain and will now rest with the developers, but the town council has included a clause in the sale that any conversion to flats triggers a further payment to the authority.

Currently leased by the Stowmarket Operatic and Dramatic Society, it is used for the preparation and storage of props and scenery.

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