An antiques dealer who is opening a new premises with a coffee shop in a former Stradbroke pub says he hopes his business will be “an addition” to the village.
Mark Knight, 58, who has lived in Suffolk for more than 15 years, had change of use planning permission granted by Mid Suffolk District Council on the Grade II listed Queen’s Head pub, based in Queen Street.
Getting the keys in April, he said he has filled 15 skips in a bid to restore the 17th Century building, which will be “opening soon”.
The Queen’s Head had been closed since 2015.
Spaces will be rented out to sellers, with a few remaining. Mr Knight said it would provide an “intimate setting” with a group of “specialist” dealers.
Mr Knight told the Diss Express: “It has been a full time development. We are not doing this half heartedly.
I don’t want to come across as someone who is coming in to abuse this, as I’ve put in a lot of time and a lot of money in. We don’t want to be something detrimentalMark Knight
“We have put a lot of thought, effort, time and money, a lot of money, to retain the fabric of a beautiful old building.
“Having a love for antiques and all things old, a building like this is just beautiful, and it’s got to be retained.
“There is a wonderful community spirit here which is something at my time of life now, I was looking for.”
Stradbroke Parish Council had recommended refusal on the planning application. They felt a change of use was unnecessary, wanting to preserve the building’s pub status for any future owners who would want to run it as a public house. They also opposed a new hanging sign at the building, claiming the Queen’s Head name should be retained, citing its “historical significance” to the village.
CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) also secured an Asset of Community Value order on the building, and had also written to the council to express its objection to the plans.
Mr Knight said he “completely understood” people’s concerns.
“A situation like this could have been abused by the wrong sort of person,” he explained. “I really did take on board everything they said and I tried to comply within the parameters they had set.
“I understand the village needs to take on new people slowly and you can’t just burst in and say ‘I’m doing this’ and ‘I’m doing that’ and upsetting people, that’s not my intention at all. I want to be part of the village and hopefully create something which is an addition to the village, and hopefully brings people to come use the facilities — not only mine, but other facilities in the village.
“I don’t want to come across as someone who is coming in to abuse this, as I’ve put in a lot of time and a lot of money in. We don’t want to be something detrimental.”