A multi-million pound scheme to help boost Bury St Edmunds town centre, create new opportunities for retail and housing while preserving local heritage is set to be discussed.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council Cabinet will be discussing options including a potential £6.72m investment in 17-18 Cornhill on Tuesday, April 17.
Proposals could include creating a dramatic new retail frontage on St Andrews Street South as well as the potential to explore widening the link to the town centre while protecting the historic frontage on Cornhill. Plans could also include opportunities to create new homes as part of the development bringing benefits for local residents and businesses.
The project is the first announced under the Council’s new Growth Investment Strategy. This means that rather than simply looking for the maximum financial return, such as a commercial operator would, the council can look at how it can achieve a blend of benefits to support day to day services, initiatives that can spur on economic growth, as well as social, community and environmental benefits that help people. The options being looked at not only include achieving wider priorities and benefits for Bury St Edmunds but is also predicted to break-even.
If approved by Cabinet and subsequently Full Council on April 24, detailed design work will be carried out ready for public exhibition early this summer and in preparation for a pre-planning and planning application to be made later this year.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council bought 17-18 Cornhill for £1.6m late last year after the Post Office Ltd decided to relocate its business into part of the neighbouring WH Smiths store.
The council identified the site as of strategic importance due to what was the emerging Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan and the site’s relationship to Cornhill/ Buttermarket, Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews Street South.
The masterplan, which was shaped by public engagement, identified a need to improve the transition from the Arc Shopping Centre into the traditional town centre, and help make the area feel more coherent. The masterplan was since adopted in December 2017.
In the case of 17-18 Cornhill, the council is working with Donald Insall Associates to come up with designs that retain the Victorian Cornhill front which is in a conservation area while bringing it back into economic use. At the same time improve the look and feel of Market Thoroughfare, one of the main walkways in the town, and provide a new shop front onto St Andrews Street South that can act as a catalyst for other landowners and investors to make improvements to that street.
Councillor Alaric Pugh, Cabinet Member for Planning and Growth, said: “The newly adopted growth investment strategy puts us in a great position to not only invest in this building but make a social and economic return for our communities and businesses. It means we can seize opportunities to encourage further investment, help create homes while protecting what makes West Suffolk such a great place to live. The council has been working closely with local groups through the masterplan and this process and their help will remain vital as this moves forward. I am looking forward to seeing designs further explored over the next month or so before they go on public exhibition in the summer.”
Councillor John Griffiths, leader of the council, said: “We are continuing to invest in our communities and businesses to bring wider benefits for all. This project is about ensuring that not just Bury St Edmunds town centre but the whole of West Suffolk continues to be a great place to live, work, shop, visit and enjoy for decades to come. Our new Growth Investment Strategy offers us the chance to deliver on a scheme that commercial investors might not consider and it also means we have the opportunity to invest in this building, protecting our heritage, while securing future economic growth and social benefits as well – for our communities and local businesses alike.”
The work on this and other masterplan related projects is being taken forward with a number of town centre groups, including the Bury Society, market traders and OurBuryStEdmunds Business Improvement District, all being consulted for their views.