The date has now been set to transform Horam’s former Merrydown factory site into a housing and new business development.
The area is currently a pile of bricks and rubble and has been dubbed ‘a bomb site’ by the village’s Wealden District councillor.
Now the site developers Beech Merrydown have set June 1 as the date diggers, demolition and construction teams move into the area.
Beech Merrydown director Steven Knott told the Express: “We had hoped to begin in May but there is a lot of archaeological work going on so we thought it best to set a date when we know for sure work can start.”
The site will be transformed into a small housing scheme with business units.
Cllr Stedman said: “We are particularly happy that plans to include the business units were not jeopardised during the planning process. We look forward to welcoming new residents and businesses to Horam.”
The site was previously used for the production of Merrydown cider and fruit wines and has been vacant since 2004. It was earmarked for housing development, formerly by David Wilson Homes and then more recently Redrow Homes (South East) - the company which undertook the lion’s share of the demolition.
Cllr Stedman added: “Redrow Homes left the site in the most terrible mess and we have been living with that ever since. It is a blight on the community and has brought it down. Now we can look to the future which will be good news for current residents and particularly local businesses. We are lucky to have held onto our thriving community of shops and services and this can only be the best possible news for them.”
The first application was for 92 homes but that was opposed by both the Parish and Wealden District Council.
Finally an application for 59 homes and live-work units was approved.
District’s standardised requirement for affordable housing was originally contested under former applications, but Mr Knott now confirms that original number of affordable properties will be included in spite of the fact that there is no legal requirement for them to do so. The affordable provision was removed during discussions with planners, but Beech Merrydown decided to continue with proposals to build the number first requested. Of the 59 new units, 17 will fit that category and are much needed in Horam, councillors say. The Merrydown Group began in 1946 when founders set up the firm at a cottage in Horam.
The first batch of Merrydown Vintage cider was fermented from 450 gallons of apple juice and production rose to 400,000 gallons by 1955.
At its peak the Horam factory employed more than 125.
It was the first drinks firm to successfully market alcoholic soft drinks, known as alcopops. Alcoholic lemonade Two Dogs was an instant hit and in 1995 profits trebled.
The factory was closed in 2004 when management was moved to Surrey and subcontractors took over manufacture.