Structure in place to protect Victorian front of former Post Office

The first stage of a major town centre redevelopment on the site of the former Bury St Edmunds Post Office has seen work to protect its Victorian front.

The historic frontage at 17-18 Cornhill is being kept while the rest of the building behind, including parts which were added on at a later stage, is gradually being demolished.

West Suffolk Council bought the empty site in 2017, a year after the Post Office decided to relocate its business. The council, which in investing in the long-term future of the town centre as a place of continuing economic, social and cultural activity, has worked with partners to bring forward the scheme.

The redevelopment, being carried out by Suffolk firm Barnes Construction working with its appointed architects, Concertus Design and Property Consultants, will deliver new ground floor commercial units with 12 flats above.

By widening Market Thoroughfare by over 50 per cent and creating a new commercial frontage onto St Andrews Street South, the council will also be delivering on some of the aims of the town centre masterplan, shaped by 8,000 public comments.

But the very first step is ensuring the protection of the historic Cornhill front, a job for Barnes’ structural engineers Superstructures.

James Potter, managing director of Superstructures, said: “The retention of the existing Post Office façade is a complicated design process. Superstructures has designed a system that will clamp steel beams to the front and rear of the façade. This is then fixed onto triangular trusses that get supported at ground floor level. At the base of the temporary structure we have a mass of concrete blocks, a bit like Lego bricks, that will hold the structure in place until the new steel frame for the building is constructed behind. This will then provide the permanent support allowing the temporary structure to be removed.”

John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “The Victorian front is an important part of our town’s history and heritage. From day one, our plan, and our challenge has been about how we keep this wonderful piece of architecture and bring it back into use, while also achieving the dramatic and important changes needed to Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews Street South. The structural engineering that will protect the Cornhill front is both complex and fascinating – and crucial to its success.”

Mark Bailey, director at Barnes Construction, added: “It is great to see the initial phase on the redevelopment of this landmark building in the centre of Bury St Edmunds taking shape. Once the façade retention is completed, we will be moving onto the careful removal of the building immediately behind and then the groundworks to support the new building.”

Pictured above is Mark Bailey, of Barnes Construction, outlining the work to protect the historic Cornhill front to John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council.

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