Video & Gallery: Wherstead Park's new lease of life

ONE of the region's major retailers has unveiled its new picturesque headquarters on the outskirts of Ipswich and today vowed to expand through the recession.

ONE of the region's major retailers has unveiled its new picturesque headquarters on the outskirts of Ipswich and today vowed to expand through the recession.

The East of England Co-op has taken residence at the tranquil Wherstead Park to create a more efficient workforce.

The 17-acre site previously occupied by E.ON has stunning views over the River Orwell and Shotley Peninsula but also has close links to the A12 and A14 motorways.

As well as developing Wherstead Park as a business centre, the independent retailer is excitedly preparing to unveil its jewel in the crown - a magnificent Georgian Manor House.

The Grade II-listed building is being primed as a conference venue and training academy which is hoped to be up and running in the autumn.

With several conference rooms adorned with elaborate furniture, a breath-taking atrium and glorious vistas, the Co-op is also chomping at the bit to lease it for weddings and other memorable occasions.

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When E.ON owned the site, the early-18th Century building was kept largely for internal use, but now bosses at the Co-op want to show it off to the public.

Plans are also afoot to demolish some eye-sore outbuildings and convert stables into accommodation.

There is potential to create nine or ten bedrooms for people attending residential courses or private functions.

The grounds also have tennis courts, a croquet lawn and spacious grassland that provide staff with an escape from the office right on their doorstep.

Lesley Frost, commercial manager, said: “It gives us an opportunity to share these great facilities.

“It excites me in terms of marketing and selling it.”

The Georgian property, known as The Mansion, is attached to the Business Park, where around 150 staff previously dotted around the region have converged to form a more efficient team.

Richard Samson, chief executive, said: “It is a brilliant location with modern facilities. We are very lucky.

“When we had the merger of the Colchester and Ipswich Co-ops around three and a half years ago, we had offices all over the two counties.

“We have never been able to bring them together until now.”

The company has also leased part of the office complex to 100 employees of P&O Ferrymasters and is looking for more businesses to follow suit.

The massive investment in the re-location has been seen as a positive move for the Ipswich economy and has given the Co-op a platform to expand.

A �1million refurbishment of its store in Framlingham is nearing completion and the company has reported a 4.8per cent increase in its food sales so far this year compared to the same period in 2008.

Mr Samson said: “It is a difficult climate, particularly for retailing. It is tough and we are no exception.

“In the next three years we could be spending �50million on redevelopment and new stores.”

What do you think of the new HQ? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

The East of England Co-operative Society is the largest independent retailer in East Anglia and the third largest independent consumer co-operative in the UK.

The Co-op has over 200 trading outlets which are located in 73 towns and villages, plus three regional centres in Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester.

They cover more than 2,000 square miles from Sheringham in Norfolk to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex.

As well as food stores and supermarkets, its diverse business activities include travel, pharmacies, funeral branches, petrol forecourts and motor dealerships.

THE Evening Star launched the Fightback campaign to turn the spotlight on all that is good in Suffolk and the county town of Ipswich.

We want to play our part with good news stories from the region.

Let us know how you are fighting back against the recession. Contact The Evening Star news team on 01473 324788 or e-mail:

You can also get more information and download our Fightback logo at

WHEN the East of England Co-op announced it was taking over Wherstead Park it was a massive vote of confidence in the whole area.

As well as providing a worthy headquarters for such an important regional employer Wherstead Park is also being converted into a top-quality business park and conference venue.

That will give many more people the chance to see inside the glorious Georgian mansion - for many years a hidden jewel among Suffolk's stately homes.

For many businesses these are tough times - it is great news that an organisation as important as the Co-op has such faith in the area's ability to fightback and emerge even stronger in the years ahead.

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