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Decision made on Ipswich Mulberry Tree pub's future

PUBLISHED: 16:07 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:04 15 March 2019

The Mulberry Tree, Ipswich, in its final days as an Ipswich pub, with the space now set to become a Kurdish community centre and mosque. Picture: ARCHANT

The Mulberry Tree, Ipswich, in its final days as an Ipswich pub, with the space now set to become a Kurdish community centre and mosque. Picture: ARCHANT

A former Ipswich pub which was once a mainstay of the town's nightlife will now serve the Kurdish community, after plans for a new lease of life were approved.

Mulberry Tree pub, Ipswich, was a popular place for a pint in  1977. Picture: ARCHANTMulberry Tree pub, Ipswich, was a popular place for a pint in 1977. Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Borough Council’s planning committee gave the green light yesterday for the empty Mulberry Tree pub in Woodbridge Road to become a community centre and mosque called the Nawracy Cultural Centre.

But councillors also hit back at Islamophobic public objections which the plans had been subjected to.

The applicants, which serve the Kurdish community in the town, made it clear it was in no way connected to the group which had been converting the Rose and Crown pub in Norwich Road; a development subsequently stopped after structural dangers to the building were identified.

Metin Bicen, agent for the developers, said: “It will be a great community facility which will be inclusive to any age, race, religion or background.

Colin Kreidewolf said it was sad the plans had resulted in Islamophobic comments from objectors. Picture: ARCHANTColin Kreidewolf said it was sad the plans had resulted in Islamophobic comments from objectors. Picture: ARCHANT

“We are excited about this becoming a vital part of the Ipswich community.”

Plans were first mooted in August when an initial application was submitted, but this was withdrawn a month later and a fresh proposal put in as it did not request permission for a change of use for the building as a place of worship.

The plans attracted more than 150 objections including a range of concerns such as loss of an Ipswich pub, traffic problems, question marks over air quality and noise disturbance.

They also attracted a swathe of Islamophobic comments.

The Mulberry Tree pub, Ipswich, as it looked in 1977. Picture: ARCHANTThe Mulberry Tree pub, Ipswich, as it looked in 1977. Picture: ARCHANT

Addressing those views, councillor Colin Kreidewolf said: “It saddens me to listen to some of the extreme opinions of some people who may have different beliefs.

“Many of the comments expressed are nothing to do with the planning process and we can grant no weight to them.”

The new space is expected to be used by between 25 and 40 people a day, with a larger congregation of around 100 people expected for prayers on Friday lunchtimes.

The use of the building has been restricted to between 10am and 10pm under the planning conditions.

The council’s planning policies aim to keep pubs in use if possible, but in instances where this is not feasible aims to instead approve a use for the community’s benefit.

In their report, planning officers said previous attempts to market the pub since its closure in the summer of 2017 had failed to gather interest and said that if a fresh attempt was made it was “unlikely that results would be different and show that a public house would be viable”.

High business rates, increasing duty on alcohol and changing drinking habits were reasons cited for the decline.

Councillor David Goldsmith said: “We have now the opportunity to put a redundant building back into use which will improve the area.

“We are urged to make redundant pubs into community use, so I think it’s a good idea.”

At its peak, the pub had been a popular watering hole and live music venue, and had also traded under the names The Beer House and The Milestone – the latter in reference to the Grade II Listed milestone at the front of the building.

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