17-18 Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds
This major regeneration scheme in the heart of Bury St Edmunds town centre, is designed to maximise footfall and had strong public support.
West Suffolk Council has confirmed completion of its redevelopment of 17-18 Cornhill.
The council bought the redundant site for £1.6m after the Post Office decided in 2017 to relocate its business next door.
It followed on from the town centre masterplan in 2017 which was shaped by 8000 public comments and called for improvements to Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews St South.
The purchase also meant that the council could ensure the unlisted Victorian Cornhill front, an important part of the town’s heritage, was kept and that the overall site would be redeveloped in line with the public’s ambitions shaped in the masterplan.
Councillors from across all political divides backed a £6.72m investment in the site in April 2018. Then in June 2018, a public exhibition showing concept drawings for how the building could be transformed, received overwhelming public support. Those designs eventually led to a planning application which was approved in November 2019, and construction began in September 2020 and was completed in March 2023.
Throughout the project, the council has sought input from the Bury Society, Bury St Edmunds Town Trust, Our Bury St Edmunds and the arc, as well as other key stakeholders all with the view of delivering a cost-neutral scheme to benefit the town and its businesses.
The building phase saw Barnes Construction carry out work on West Suffolk Council's behalf to protect and keep the Victorian front at Cornhill while the rest of the building including parts which had been added on at a later stage, was demolished and replaced.
And the results are a redevelopment that:
- Brings the Victorian Cornhill front back into economic use while improving access and replacing windows to improve energy efficiency.
- Turns an unattractive yard area at the rear of the old Post Office into a new commercial front onto St Andrews St South. In time, it is hoped that the redevelopment will encourage other landowners and developers to improve the street scene, better connecting the arc with the historic town centre.
- Helps maximise the potential footfall across the town centre by widening Market Thoroughfare by more than 50 percent at ground floor level to 3.8m (before it was 2.4m). This has been achieved by giving over ground floor commercial floor space to the public realm.
- Delivers 12 new apartments (11 of which had been reserved ahead of the building’s completion in March 2023). The new apartments are in line with the masterplan’s aim for more town centre living
- Creates two new-ground floor commercial units
- Benefits from an array of environmental improvements including solar panels and an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) which uses the reversal of a process that works in people’s refrigerators at home, to provide heating.
The project continues to be modelled as cost neutral with the sale of the remaining apartments, the leasing of the commercial units and the final accounts now to be agreed with its contractors.
Who else have you worked with on this?
The council has worked with representatives of a number of key town centre groups including:
- The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership
- The Bury Society
- Bury St Edmunds Town Council
- Bury St Edmunds Town Trust
- Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District, and
- Suffolk County Council.
New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership was awarded £32.1m through the Government’s Getting Building Fund, including £2.75m for the Cornhill project. The money gave more cost certainty given the challenges to construction following COVID-19 and other external influences. Leader of West Suffolk Council, Councillor John Griffiths also secured an additional £160,000 through Suffolk Public Sector Leaders from the business rates retention pool.
How will this help the town centre?
This is an investment in the long-term future of the town. It is also not just an investment in the town centre as a place of economic, but also cultural, leisure and social activity. In other words, we anticipate that although there may be change in how we use them, our high streets are still places to which people will go, as well as places that people will live and work in. The public’s and the council’s ambitions as set out in the masterplan, is to better unite the arc and the historic town centre so that they are easier for visitors to enjoy and explore. We have done this by creating a lighter, brighter wider walkway at Market Thoroughfare and adding a new commercial front onto St Andrews Street South as part of a wider ambition to change the feel of the street so that it becomes more of an attraction in its own right, rather than being seen as a service road.
- Major regeneration project is completed in heart of town centre - 15 March 2023
- Celebrations as brighter wider Market Thoroughfare reopens - 22 February 2023
- Wider Market Thoroughfare to reopen as project nears completion - 17 February 2023
- Strong demand for new apartments at town centre redevelopment - 28 July 2022