Written by Nikki O’Hagan, 27th November 2023

We are thrilled to announce Planning Direct’s involvement in one of the most exciting regeneration projects to be brought forward in Ipswich, Suffolk in recent years. The project seeks to restore the Tolly Cobbold Brewery site, following dereliction and fire damage.

A brief history of the site

Also known as Cliff Brewery, the site contains 3 Grade II listed buildings. Amongst these, a much-loved local pub – The Brewery Tap – once offered local brews and fantastic views across the waterfront. 

The site’s long life as a brewery first began in the 1700s when it was established by the Cobbolds, a prominent and influential Ipswich family. In 1957, the Cobbolds merged with another family brewer known as the Tollemaches and the name “Tolly Cobbold” was born.

Tolly Cobbold redevelopment

Sadly, the brewery closed its doors in 2002 and has remained out of action ever since. In 2004, proposals to convert the brewery building to market housing were turned down by Ipswich Borough Council. A long period of dereliction followed, during which the brewery was repeatedly vandalised, ransacked, and looted of its most valuable contents – now forever lost.

In 2013, planning permission was granted for a major, £30m redevelopment of the brewery site, to include housing and a new supermarket. The 2013 redevelopment scheme was multiple years in the making but sadly fell through before works began.

In 2015, the brewery was named one of the most endangered buildings in the country by the Victorian Society.

In spite of the troubles facing the brewery, the Brewery Tap pub managed to cling to life until 2017. Following a poor food hygiene rating and with only a week’s notice given, the pub shut its doors for good in March 2017. Its loss was keenly felt by the local community. 

A devastating fire

Community hopes that the site and pub might one day be restored remained high until 2020 when a devastating fire raged through the main brewery building. The damage was considerable and three people were arrested on suspicion of arson. Although still standing, the historic building was left exposed to the elements and what little was left of the interior rapidly deteriorated.

Brewery Tap fire damage

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) added the following update to its Ipswich Brewery Tap page in 2020: 

“Currently closed, future uncertain, though given the state of the site and huge fire within the brewery building in February 2020, it seems unlikely ever to reopen.”

It seemed to all as though the site’s fate was sealed and its total dereliction inevitable.

A new owner brings new hope

That is until 2021 when the site was purchased at auction by Ipswich businessman and care home owner, Mac Khan. 

Mac has already successfully restored and revived a number of historic Ipswich properties, including Westerfield House on Humber Doucy Lane. His landmark, £25m Ipswich care village is already under development, having received planning consent in the summer of 2022.

Mr Khan has a proven track record of seeing complex and ambitious heritage redevelopment projects through to completion and we can think of nobody better to take on Tolly Cobbold.

Following his purchase of the brewery site, Mac immediately brought together a team of local experts, architects and planning professionals, jointly tasked with bringing his redevelopment dream to life. Planning Direct was delighted to be selected, alongside KLH Architects and others, as part of this collaborative team. 

Planning Direct’s director, Andrew Cann, has led the public consultation. Steve Miller is acting as planning consultant and Nikki O’Hagan as heritage consultant. 

Mac is committed to investing in Ipswich and intends to employ as many local people as possible throughout the planning, construction and operation stages. If you have something to offer, please get in touch!

About the project

The ambitious project will see the brewery building painstakingly restored and converted to extra care housing and a museum. The museum will provide the opportunity to carefully restore, safeguard and showcase those artefacts that remain in and around the buildings. It will be open to the public.

The Brewery Tap will become a restaurant for residents of the site and members of the public alike. 

A thoughtfully designed new building will neighbour the brewery to its south. Not only will this provide much needed specialist housing for Ipswich’s older and disabled communities, it will also provide the funds required to restore the site’s brewery and other Grade II listed buildings. 

Tolly Cobbold redevelopment

KLH has nearly finalised the architectural plans that will accompany the full planning and listed building consent applications. We aim to submit the applications to Ipswich Borough Council in the new year (2024). 

Once complete, the development will create a variety of new jobs for local people, including care and hospitality roles. 

Have your say

So far, the local community’s response to the Tolly Cobbold redevelopment project has been overwhelmingly positive. We are all very excited at the prospect of the site re-opening to the public once again and can’t wait to share the full plans with you all in 2024. 

Our initial public consultation event took place on 28th October at St Clement’s Church. If you missed it, we still want to hear your thoughts! 

Find out more about the redevelopment plans here:

Respond to the online public survey here:

Or write to Mac Khan directly at the following postal address:

Mac Khan, ref: Tolly Cobbold redevelopment, 235 Foxhall Road, Ipswich, IP3 8LF.

If you’re thinking of taking on a new heritage project, we offer assistance with all types and sizes of projects. Our initial advice is always free of charge.

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