Councillors vote to turn landmark building into pub

BOROUGH councillors decided last night to support a bid to turn a landmark Suffolk building into a pub.

The future of the Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds was on the agenda for yesterday’s full council meeting of St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Following a lengthy debate on whether to support a proposal by J D Wetherspoon for a pub or one by Abbeycroft Leisure for a children’s play facility, 22 councillors voted in favour of the pub, 14 voted against and three abstained.

There has been strong feeling on the future of the Grade-II listed building, with concerns expressed about both options on the table.

A recent consultation event revealed the majority of the 216 people who took part were worried about turning the Corn Exchange into a pub.

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Following last night’s meeting, Alan Jary, vice-chairman of the Bury Society, which is against the pub bid, said the decision was “disappointing.”

“The society hasn’t looked at this as a Wetherspoons,” he said.

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“We have looked at it as a drinking establishment and we really think the drinking establishment is not the way to go.”

Mr Jary added that if the proposal went ahead there would be a high concentration of night-time venues in a small area.

This, he feared, would be a “cause for concern.”

Abbeycroft chief executive Warren Smyth said the firm was “slightly disappointed.”

But he added: “I don’t think we are too disheartened by it and will look for an alternative venue to operate something like that [in Bury].”

Chairman of Bury St Edmunds Town Council, Bob Cockle, voted against the Wetherspoons bid at the meeting, but he said he could understand why for financial reasons people supported it.

The Wetherspoon proposal is for a 30-year lease and initial investment into the building would be �1million to �1.4m, compared to a 10-year lease and an initial investment of �110,000 to make the building fit for purpose plus �130,000 for play equipment offered by Abbeycroft.

Sara Mildmay-White, a cabinet member for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said Wetherspoons had an excellent reputation with historic buildings.

She added: “This is an excellent offer for the taxpayer.”

The bid by J D Wetherspoon is now subject to planning permission as well as a premises licence.

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