VOTE: BREWERY’S COMING HOME?

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MANSFIELD Bitter could be coming home as part of ambitious plans to bring the town’s former brewery site bubbling back to life with a multi-million pound development.

Initial details of the huge scheme for the long-derelict former Mansfield Brewery, at Great Central Road, were released this week following weeks of rumour.

Ron Kirk, a former managing director of the brewery, has emerged as chairman of a consortium planning a new 25,000 barrel-a-year brewery, visitors’ centre, restaurant and world-class ‘academy for the culinary arts’ with thousands of students.

Mr Kirk said a discussion on bringing the famous Mansfield brand back has already been held with current owners Marston’s.

The plan would see the beer produced in the town for the first time in over a decade, alongside other ales.

It is just one element of a project which would create a ‘Californian-style’ institute or academy in the heart of the town, bringing jobs and tens of millions of pounds to the local economy.

“Mansfield can show how it could be done,” Mr Kirk told Chad this week.

“The project will be a thank-you from me to the town for the years I had there.

“I’m pretty confident. I’ve been absolutely surprised; everyone who I’ve been to about this has been very supportive.”

An unnamed private investor already has money to back the plan, he added.

Beginning with a 100-seat restaurant and brewery, operating at around 10 per cent of the capacity of the original brewery, a visitor centre, cafe bar, and the academy would follow.

Once complete the whole site could attract as many as around 15,000 full and part-time students from the local area, the UK and further afield.

Student residential and starter homes, business start-up units, an on-site recycling plant, child day care centre and a convenience store are also part of the scheme.

Added Mr Kirk, at the brewery from 1983 to 1991: “I’ve approached Marston’s and told them what we’re doing and said I would really love to bring the Mansfield brand back to be brewed in Mansfield.

“I will be talking to them further about it.”

A Marston’s spokesman said: “We wish Mr Kirk good luck with this exciting new venture and look forward to hearing more about it, as it progresses.”

Mr Kirk added the unnamed private investor, with strong Mansfield roots, approached him initially with the idea around a year ago.

Mr Kirk, now a consultant to the food and drinks industry, has brought the scheme forward for a group of investors, advisors and designers under the banner of Nottinghamshire Renaissance Consortium.

“We want to get the planning application in to Mansfield District Council by the beginning of next year, so we can start work by the middle of next year,” he said.

He added the investor would be able to provide £3m to £5m for the building of the brewery and would be able to provide some cash to kick start the academy.

Other money would come from other investors including established supermarket and food and drinks brands willing to support better training for industry recruits.

The original brewery shut a decade ago after owners Wolverhampton and Dudley, later to become Marston’s, moved production to the West Midlands.

The site was later bought by property firm Lexi Holdings, but the company collapsed into administration in 2006 and it was repossessed by Barclays Bank. The original buildings were demolished in 2008 after attracting arsonists and vandals.

Accountants KPMG are the administrators for the site, with Barclays among the creditors.

Last month Mansfield District Council approved a £30,000 spend on re-assessing the site and re-valuing it to drive any new plan forward.

Council research has also indicated the authority could be best off intervening to buy the site it itself to spark regeneration, something Mr Kirk said the consortium considered an option and would work with the council on.

Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton announced some of the initial details last week at a Mansfield 2020 networking meeting.

Added Mr Egginton: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the town centre.

“We won’t rule anything out, we will do whatever we can to make sure we bring it forward.”

David Bryson, who runs Mansfield Home Brewing Centre, Ratcliffe Gate, welcomed the plan.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” he said.

“It would get the town’s name out there again and give it back the association with brewing.”