Fire second in historic area

THE blaze in the listed former offices of Burton Son and Sanders comes two years to the month since another historic waterfront building was destroyed.

By Paul Geater

THE blaze in the listed former offices of Burton Son and Sanders comes two years to the month since another historic waterfront building was destroyed.

St. Peter's Warehouse, better known as Pauls, was all but burned out in the disastrous fire in April 2000.

Much of what was left there had to be demolished to make it safe.

But out of the ashes something bigger and better could emerge – there are outstanding planning applications for both Paul's site and the site of the former Burton's building which was damaged today.

Burton Son and Sanders had been founded in 1824 and made confectionery for the baking industry.

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The factory closed in 1993 with the loss of 139 jobs.

Most of the factory between College Street and Star Lane was demolished two years later.

The only part of the building to survive was the company's former offices – which are listed and date from the early years of the 19th century.

The site has been empty for the last seven years – it is currently popular as an unofficial skatepark.

But last August local architects Wincer Kievenaar announced ambitious plans for a "cascade" of 70 flats for the site.

The modern flats would be built beside the old Burton's offices, which in turn are next to the even more historic Wolsey's Gate, the only part of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's 16th century college on the site to survive.

An outline planning application was lodged for the development – but it has not yet been considered by the borough's development control committee.

However planning officials are known to have doubts about the scale of the proposed development and its impact on neighbouring properties in what is the most historic part of the town.

As well as Wolsey's College – completed in one year and pulled down the next – this area of the town was the original heart of Ipswich, founded by the Anglo Saxons in the sixth century – at the time of the Sutton Hoo burial ship.

Ipswich was the first "English" town to be founded by the Anglo Saxons – and at one stage that site had been suggested as a possible home for the Gipeswic Centre telling the story of the Anglo-Saxons, but that proposal failed to attract the necessary National Lottery funding.

Officials from Ipswich Council had remained hopeful of seeing a new tenant moving into the former Burton's offices – talks had been underway with the buildings' owners until today.

David Emmerson, assistant conservation officer at Ipswich Council, said that the fire was a big setback to plans to see the Grade II-listed building reoccupied.

He said that the council was in talks with the owners of the site to put the building back into use.

"Obviously this is a big setback for a listed building in the town," he said.

"The building was already at risk but this fire obviously adds to its problems."

The cause of the fire in St. Peter's Warehouse has never been conclusively proved – the site was too dangerous for investigators to visit it.

However the derelict buildings in the Waterfront area are believed to be popular haunts for some homeless people and also to have been visited by some drug users.

Fire fighters have been called to buildings in the area on a number of occasions – but this is the first time for two years that serious damage has been caused.