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Sudbury jewellery retailer announces shock closure, citing lack of investment in town and rising business rates

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Jonathan Lambert Fine Jewellers at the Borehamgate Precinct in Sudbury. Pictured: owners Jonathan and Yasmin Lambert. (5256619)
Jonathan Lambert Fine Jewellers at the Borehamgate Precinct in Sudbury. Pictured: owners Jonathan and Yasmin Lambert. (5256619)

As businesses gathered for a glimpse at Sudbury’s vision for future prosperity, one long-standing shop painted a less rosy picture, as it confirmed its shock departure from the town.

Jonathan Lambert Fine Jewellers announced its intention to close its shop in the Borehamgate precinct, where it has been based since 2003, citing rising business rates, as well as the “progressively dilapidated” state of the precinct and nearby Hamilton Road quarter.

Run by husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Yasmin Lambert, the independent jewellery retailer shut this week, to prepare for a closing down sale that begins on Saturday.

After all inventory is sold, the couple will leave the site permanently to concentrate on their second store in Lavenham.

The surprise announcement came as Babergh District Council hailed the success of the Sudbury business forum this month, organised jointly with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which was attended by almost 50 local business representatives.

The event included updates on key developments in the town, including plans to regenerate the Hamilton Road quarter.

But Mr Lambert told the Free Press he feels the area is long overdue for investment, and he saw “no signs of improvement” in local trading conditions, which led to their difficult decision to cease trading in Sudbury.

“We have reached a point where Sudbury is going downhill so dramatically as a town centre,” he said.

“In general terms, you have only got to walk down to the precinct and the effects are blatantly obvious.

“Other businesses have seen the light and packed up and gone, too. The whole precinct is becoming very grotty, to such an extent that we decided we didn’t want to be there any longer.

Mr Lambert also criticised the “ludicrous” business rates, stating he believes there is no correlation between their payment of £800 a month and any return in investment from the district council, which owns the precinct.

He added that unless something dramatic is done in the next six months, he believes there would not be much retail activity in this part of the town.

“Realistically, I think all small market towns are struggling, and Sudbury is no different,” he said.

“As a business, we are actually 15 per cent up year on year as a whole, but most of our customers are making the choice to come to Lavenham, because it’s so much nicer. There is more in Lavenham to attract people to come there.”

Jonathan Lambert Fine Jewellers is not the only shop to vacate the precinct this year – another long-standing store, Thing-Me-Bobs, shut in June, after negotiations with the council over a new lease agreement collapsed.

But the district council says it is optimistic about the town’s prospects following the recent business forum, and it is pressing ahead with its Vision for Prosperity, which sets out long-term goals to revitalise the town centre and boost its position in the region.

The council’s proposals for the Hamilton Road quarter include new homes, food and retail space, a potential cinema development and a regeneration of the Borehamgate precinct, adding a new public square and a pedestrian mall to Great Eastern Road.

Following the forum, Simon Barrett, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for growth, stated he was thrilled to have chaired “such a forward-looking and positive event”.

“We, at Babergh, are determined to lead the growth agenda all across our district,” he said.

“The event was on the key themes of branding, positivity, community and partnership.

“I’m sure the delegates took those ideas to heart, together with a more rounded understanding of the work that is going on – often behind the scenes – to ensure our future is prosperous.”