Pub company offers reassurance over plans for historic building

A MAJOR pub operator which has won a bid to transform a Suffolk landmark has said the venue will be an “asset not a hindrance”.

J D Wetherspoon was backed by a majority of borough councillors this week to take on the Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds.

But St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s own consultation event last month revealed the majority of those who took part had concerns about the proposal.

Worries centred on the pub impacting negatively on residents’ quality of life, being detrimental to other establishments in the town and being an inappropriate use of the Grade-II Listed building.

Philip Lee-Ashby, regional manager for J D Wetherspoon, said: “We want to work with people. We want to bring something new and exciting to the town. We think it would be an asset not a hindrance.”

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A spokesman for the pub operator said: “I think what Wetherspoons would bring, subject to planning and licensing, would be a good quality pub in a building that would be restored to the top level plus investment plus jobs plus a long-term commitment to being in Bury St Edmunds.

“Our pubs - 768 across the UK - are incredibly popular.”

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He added: “We are not aware of a pub ever closing as a result of a Wetherspoons pub opening.

“If the pub were to open it’s ultimately for people in the area - residents and people on day trips - to choose which pub to go to.

“In terms of it having an adverse effect on the area or other pubs we don’t see that.”

The spokesman said J D Wetherspoon would invest more than �1million into the building and if the pub opened it would create 40 to 50 jobs.

He said the firm was “absolutely delighted” with the council’s decision, adding how the operator had been looking for a site in the town for the last eight to ten years.

Borough councillors debated extensively on Tuesday night over whether to support the J D Wetherspoon bid or one by Abbeycroft Leisure for a children’s play facility.

At the full council meeting 22 voted in favour of the pub, 14 against and there were three abstentions.

The spokesman for J D Wetherspoon said the firm would want to submit plans sooner rather than later while ensuring they reached the standard the local authority wanted.

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