Young's ponders exit from Wandsworth

Related tags Wembley stadium London Stephen goodyear

by Andrew Pring Swirling media speculation on the future of Young's ­ and a sharp rise in share price ­has prompted chief executive Stephen...

by Andrew Pring

Swirling media speculation on the future of Young's ­ and a sharp rise in share price ­has prompted chief executive Stephen Goodyear to assureanxious brewery staff that no move is imminent.

But rumours continue to circulate that the company will inevitably leave Wandsworth in several years' time. It is understood the company has identified three possible new brewery sites in the Wandsworth and surrounding areas ­ but none has been deemed suitable. It continues to search in Wandsworth, but sites further west, within easy reach of the M25, are also understood to be under consideration.

At a recent meeting with staff representatives ­ the first since the idea emerged at the end of 2003 ­ Goodyear said Young's was examining all its options but had reached no firm conclusion yet. He took pains to quash rumours that the company was poised to relocate almost immediately to the west of England.

Comparing the company'ssituation to that of a domestic homeowner contemplating moving, Goodyear told staff reps that the company wanted "to understand the true value of our site". He added: "It would be negligent not to if we are to have a Young's that's fit for the next 200 years of our history." As with any home-seller, the property could be withdrawn from the market at any stage.

To this end, Goodyear said, it had commissioned an architect which had produced drawings of the Wandsworth site's possible alternative uses as a combination of retail, accommodation and offices. The company had discussed these with a number of developers, including the Australian firm Multiplex, which is managing the new Wembley stadium project.

At the meeting, Goodyear explained that the Greater London Authority is currently undertaking a zoning review of London, which is to be completed by 2008.

Already, though, Wandsworth has been identified as a key site for regeneration, with Young's brewery at the heart of future redevelopment.

Goodyear confirmed to the Morning Advertiser that the meeting had taken place, but would add no further comment.

However, it is believed that the Young's board will soon choose a preferred developer and explore options and their likely planning consent in greater detail.

If Young's chooses to vacate the Ram site, it seems logical that the new brewery would need to be fully operational before the current brewery finally closes. As finding a new location with planning permission would take at least a year and building a new brewery would take a further two years, the earliest the new brewery could open would be mid-2008.

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