East Herts Council buying Bishop's Stortford's Lemon Tree restaurant
East Herts Council is buying the site of the former Lemon Tree restaurant in Bishop’s Stortford.
The Water Lane eatery, run by chef patron Luke Fishpool and his wife Sue, closed on December 15 after more than two decades.
Luke said: “It has not been an easy decision to make; however, after 22 years of running the restaurant, the time has come for me to hang up my apron.”
The district council is now looking for a new tenant, with hopes high that the premises will continue to be used as a restaurant.
A spokeswoman confirmed: “The council is in the process of purchasing the Lemon Tree, with funding from the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, as a strategic land acquisition to facilitate plans for Old River Lane. The intention is for the property to be let, ideally to a restaurateur.”
In 2010, EHC was accused of selling its town centre assets at the Causeway, worth £9.9m, for a knockdown price of £6.25m to Henderson Global Investors for its ill-fated plans for a £105m retail, restaurant and residential complex.
In 2015, the district council spent £19.55m buying back Henderson’s enhanced holdings: Charringtons House office block, the Causeway and Waitrose car parks, the Causeway offices which have now been demolished and Nos 1, 2 and 3 Old River Lane – three houses with tenants.
The Lemon Tree purchase consolidates its holdings for the site, where it plans a new arts and cultural centre with a 500-seat theatre and niche cinema, potentially the library, a one-stop shop for council services, hotdesking workspace and café. There will also be housing, retail and restaurant space and a new public square, pedestrianised areas and walkways to Castle Park.
The new development would be serviced by a six-storey car park on the former cattle market at Northgate End.
Potential tenants of the former Lemon Tree should contact East Herts Council assets and estates manager Anna Osborne via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.