Construction work on the former Post Office building in the heart of Bury St Edmunds town centre is likely to start in the spring.
West Suffolk Council is investing in the multi-million redevelopment of 17-18 Cornhill keeping the historic front of the building while widening Market Thoroughfare by more than 50 per cent and creating new business frontages onto St Andrews Street South and Market Thoroughfare.
Following the decision to grant planning permission earlier today, the council will now be working to appoint contractors over the coming months. It is envisaged that the redevelopment could be completed in late 2021.
The redevelopment of the former Post Office site includes two ground floor business units with 12 flats above, and will deliver on some of the key aspirations of the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan.
St Andrews Street South is identified as an important street running between the Arc and the historic town centre. It was identified in the masterplan as in need of major improvements to help the old and the new parts of the town centre feel more coherent as one place. A new shop front, curving into Market Thoroughfare, is designed to reinvigorate the street, encouraging other landowners and investors to see the potential for what can be achieved there.
It has long been the council’s ambition to improve Market Thoroughfare, enabling people to see from either end to the parts of the town that lie beyond, encouraging greater movement between the historic and the new – and it was a public ambition echoed in the masterplan. Market Thoroughfare will be widened by more than 50 per cent taking it from 2.4m wide to 3.8m. This is being achieved by the council giving over ground floor commercial floor space.
The Cornhill front, which lies within the conservation area will be enhanced through the removal of a step to improve access and the creation of a second arch which will not only acknowledge the historic Bell Arcade but also serve the wider Market Thoroughfare.
It is envisaged, that coupled with the pedestrianisation of St Andrews Street South identified as an ambition in the town centre masterplan, that this will help change the nature of the street so that it better connects the Arc and the historic town centre and creates a more friendly environment for visitors going to the shops, restaurants, cafes and other town centre attractions.
John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “This is a major investment and it’s an important one as we work to ensure the continuing success of Bury St Edmunds town centre as a place to work, live, visit and enjoy its many social and leisure activities. It demonstrates the council’s commitment and leadership role and is also designed to encourage others to invest in their own buildings, acting as a catalyst to both reinvigorate and preserve our heritage in this part of the town centre. Not only will this investment improve Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews Street South and help drive benefits for the wider town centre economy but it is a break-even scheme which means there should be no burden on the taxpayer.”
Susan Glossop, cabinet member for Growth at the council, said: “This is an exciting project not least because it has helped us deliver on some of the things that the public asked for in the 8,000 comments that we received while shaping the town centre masterplan. There was huge public interest when the concept drawings went on show at our public exhibition and I am looking forward to seeing the drawings become reality.”
As part of the preparation for the building work, Market Thoroughfare will be closed from Monday to Wednesday, November 11 to 13 to allow for investigation works on behalf of Barnes Construction. This is to give certainty over the precise location of utility routes.