Plans to repair ‘at risk’ former department store building and turn it into retail units and flats
PUBLISHED: 05:30 16 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:12 16 October 2020
A prominent historic building in Bury St Edmunds will be made structurally stable and transformed into two shop units with flats above if latest plans get the go-ahead.
The former Palmers department store building in the town centre, on the corner of Abbeygate Street and the Buttermarket, is Grade II listed and has been empty for nearly three years.
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An application has just been submitted by CDP Ltd to turn the ground floor into two retail units with storage in the basement and eight flats across the first, second and third floors.
A heritage statement, by the agent Fenn Wright, said, as a result of previous works, “the structure is currently at risk” and proposes a steel frame to the underside of the first floor to re-stabilise the “severely weakened timber structural frame”.
The statement said: “The scheme proposed protects the area from the potential loss of this prominent Grade II building.
“Its reconstruction is of high significance and importance to Bury St Edmunds heritage and street scene.”
It added: “The building has been empty since December 2017 and now requires extensive structural repairs and alterations in order to bring the unit back into full use.”
The building, known as Suffolk House, sits in the town centre conservation area and had been occupied by Palmers since 1961 and, before that, Plumpton’s, a drapers’ shop.
According to the heritage statement, the property is believed to have been derived from the remains of a previous building and rebuilt as two properties.
The Buttermarket element is believed to date back to around the 1800s, while the slightly newer Abbeygate section is believed to have been built in the 1830s.
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The heritage statement said: “Consultation with the local conservation officer has been sought throughout the design process with elements of opening up undertaken to establish the existing structure and layout.
“Significant design resources have been utilised in order to ensure that the historic fabric requires minimal alteration.
“The scheme has been designed with the existing layout and structure in mind so as to cause the least harm as possible.
“The building has been significantly altered previously with many of the historic features previously maimed.”
Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “Whatever they do, it’s going to be better than having an empty building there.”
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The applicant is proposing two smaller retail units, as opposed to one large one, due to current demand.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the Business Improvement District (BID) group Ourburystedmunds, said: “I personally welcome the new proposals for two retail units and residential accommodation.
“I note that the application makes references to two smaller units being more appropriate for the town and in particular more affordable for independents business, which of course I am delighted to read.
“This unit is in a very high-profile location within of the town and its unattractive appearance has not helped the vista of the town.
“I hope that the application is passed and that work to transform this building can commence as soon as possible. It is a boost for the town that the new owners were prepared to invest in our town centre”
The applicant is also seeking listed building consent from West Suffolk Council.
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