The End of an Era
Clark & Butcher Mill ran successfully as a flour mill for 116 years, supplying flour to McVities over several years for their biscuit range. The company made an investment of £2.5million during the early 1990's so that it could move solely into manufacturing animal feed for the pig, poultry, horse and game markets which they did for 15 years up until the closure of the mill in 2005. The company moved into profit in the late 1990's, however, over the last five years, it had sustained substantial losses totalling over £2 million and it was this financial loss which forced them to close. The decision also came in the wake of BSE mad cow disease and later, foot-and-mouth disease, which also took its toll on the company, leading to a "critical sales decline".
The directors and management of Clark and Butcher conducted an extensive strategic review of the viability of the business. The review concluded that, notwithstanding the commitment of the shareholders, board and workforce, Clark and Butcher's prospects for making a significant improvement in profitability through organic growth in the short and medium term were limited and that the continuation of the business as a loss-making concern was not sustainable. In March 2005 the Mill finally closed with a loss of 43 jobs.
Clark & Butcher has continued to operate its property interests, which include a number of residential properties in the Soham area, which are predominantly terraced housing. In the wake of the closure announcement, an offer to supply the mill's current customers with a range of livestock products was made by W&H Marriage & Sons.
The mill being demolished in October 2007 to make way for a large housing development
Since the closure of the business in 2005, the historical mill has been torn down to make way for a large housing development. Clark and Butcher did however ask the public beforehand for comments on the proposal to build 140 homes on the riverside site before it decided to sell the buildings to a developer and for the site to be demolished. A public exhibition of the mill's history and outline plans for the proposed housing development were shown at Soham Town Council's offices in June 2005.
Plans included a combination of affordable housing, family homes, flats and town houses. GVA Grimley, property consultants for Clark & Butcher, did not compile a planning brief for discussions with East Cambridgeshire District Council until residents had had their say on the outline proposals.
The site did contain a number of ugly buildings, albeit historical ones, but none of them were listed so they were all demolished in October 2007 to make way for the housing development. The site was a hidden community asset but one of the benefits of the re-development of the site has been the opening up of riverside walks along Soham Lode to the centre of the town.