Future of Corn Exchange in doubt

THE FUTURE of a Victorian corn exchange – restored last year at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds – has been thrown into doubt once more following the collapse of a retail enterprise.

By David Green

THE FUTURE of a Victorian corn exchange – restored last year at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds – has been thrown into doubt once more following the collapse of a retail enterprise.

About 20 people are to lose their jobs following a decision by four female entrepreneurs to close businesses using the corn exchange at Harleston on the Suffolk-Norfolk border.

The businesses, called Lazy Cuisine and Lots of Gorgeous Objects and including a restaurant, delicatessen, wine bar and antiques shop, were set up in the formerly derelict building in November last year since following an expensive restoration programme.


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However, overall trading has been disappointing and the decision has been taken to close. The final day of opening will be July 30.

Val Lindsell, who set up the businesses with Cat Taylor, Meg Davis and Kathy Farrar, said everyone was "very upset" and "devastated by the closure.

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"The concerts we have held in the building have attracted a lot of support and the restaurant has at times been full," she said.

"But the retail climate is stagnant, we couldn't achieve the turnover that we needed to survive and so we must shut our doors. All of us are absolutely gutted but at least we are closing with dignity."

The building's owner, Brad Lavelle, a professional actor who lives at Mendham, said turnover figures had not been realised and the closure was "incredibly sad".

The future of the building was uncertain because he could not afford to keep it empty. "If no-one wants to rent it I'll have to put it up for sale," Mr Lavelle added.

Harleston Corn Exchange was built in 1849. At one time it doubled up as a magistrates' court and during the last century was used as a public venue for dances.

However, in the late 20th century the building fell into disrepair.

Two attempts at community ownership failed when funding was denied and it was left to Mr Lavelle to finance repairs and improvements, including installation of a mezzanine floor and a state-of-the-art water recycling system.

Special multi-layered sound insulation was also installed so that public events did not cause undue disturbance to neighbouring residents.

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