Public concern over pub plans for historic building

More than three quarters of people who took part in a consultation event on the future of Bury St Edmunds’ Corn Exchange raised concerns over a bid by J D Wetherspoon.

THE MAJORITY of those who took part in consultation on the future of a landmark building expressed concerns over it becoming a pub.

More than 200 people attended the public exhibition on options for Bury St Edmunds’ Corn Exchange, resulting in the completion of 216 feedback forms.

More than three quarters of people raised concerns about the bid put forward by J D Wetherspoon, while Abbeycroft Leisure’s bid for a play facility for children was the most popular.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is planning to lease the Grade II-listed building as it will become surplus to operational use when the Apex public venue opens at the arc shopping centre.

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The whole of the council will decide at a meeting on Tuesday whether either of the two bids for the lease can be accepted, subject to planning permission, and licensing consent for the pub operator.

Last Tuesday’s event revealed concerns around a pub centred on the adverse impact on existing food and drink businesses and it being an inappropriate use of the historic building.

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Also, more than 40 per cent of consultees were concerned a pub would encourage a larger drinking culture in the town.

But the reasons people liked the scheme included it providing a new and affordable place for people of all ages to socialise and it being the least risky option in terms of financial return and securing the future of the building.

Abbeycroft Leisure wants to negotiate with the council over taking on full liability for maintenance, and the company would be likely to pay a reduced rent as its scheme offers a community benefit.

Just over half of consultees raised concerns about the scheme, another being lack of designated parking.

People supported it for reasons including it improving the range of facilities for local families and children.

Following the exhibition the Bury Society, which objects to the pub bid, has asked the council to defer a decision to allow further discussion.

A letter from the society to the council said the value of our heritage, as well as the needs and aspirations of the community, “should outweigh financial considerations”.

The results of the consultation event are in a report to the council’s cabinet, which was due to make a recommendation on the bids to the whole council. But cabinet members felt full council should make the decision.

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