17-18 Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds

Construction on a major investment in the heart of Bury St Edmunds town centre begins from 21 September 2020.

Barnes Construction is carrying work on West Suffolk Council's behalf to protect and keep the historic front at 17-18 Cornhill the site of the former Post Office, while the rest of the building including parts which were added on at a later stage, will be demolished and replaced with two ground floor commercial units and 12 flats above.

The front of the building will be retain and access improved

Once completed the scheme will bring the site back into economic use and deliver new homes. It will also protect the Cornhill front which is in conservation area while also making it more accessible, create a new commercial front onto St Andrews Street South and widen Market Thoroughfare at ground level by more than 50 per cent to 3.8m. The project is a break-even scheme.

Market Thoroughfare will be 50 per cent wider at ground level once the works are complete

Market Thoroughfare will close during this work to ensure pedestrian safety with alternative routes to and from the arc to the historic town centre via Central Walk, Brentgovel Street and Woolhall Street.

Public backing

In 2017, the council, working with partners, led on shaping a masterplan – a vision for how growth could happen in Bury St Edmunds town centre. That masterplan saw two stages of public engagement which generated 8,000 public comments.

Many of those comments referred to widening Market Thoroughfare and making improvements to St Andrews Street South to better integrate the arc and the Cornhill and Buttermarket as one coherent town centre and ensure maximum footfall between the two areas.

How the new commercial frontage onto St Andrews St South will look from the arc

At the same time as this, the Post Office made a decision to relocate its business from 17-18 Cornhill and the council was able to move swiftly to secure the acquisition of the site to give it control over the site’s future.

Then in summer 2018, the council held a public exhibition of early designs. These received overwhelming support.

The read of the former Post Office site will make way for a new commercial frontage with residential flats above.

Safer places

The town centre is still be open for business during construction. The next nearest walkway at Central Walk is to become two way again with people advised to stick to the left-hand side as they travel in either direction. Alternative routes via Brentgovel Street will take residents into the historic town centre via the top of St Johns Street and back out via Risbygate Street and St Andrews Street North, or via Woolhall Street, all home to a variety of independent businesses.

The safer places guidance will be continually reviewed inline with the latest Government advice.

How will this help the town centre

While we recognise this is a time of huge uncertainty for many businesses nationally, 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 are doing this by creating a lighter, brighter wider walkway at Market Thoroughfare and adding a new commercial front onto St Andrews Street 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.

Why now?

There are a number of reasons why we need to progress with this project now. Just owning the building incurs costs while inflationary pressures on building costs from any further delay would increase the construction costs. The project is as close to break-even as possible – that is to say West Suffolk Council has pushed to get the maximum public benefits, such as by giving over ground floor commercial floorspace to the public realm in order to widen Market Thoroughfare. The council has secured external funding which provides cost certainty to achieving the public benefits of the scheme and means that site works must now begin in order to meet funding conditions.

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.

When should this be completed?

The project is scheduled for completion in 2022.

How much is the council investing?

The council has already agreed to invest £8.4m which includes the £1.6m purchase. Leader of West Suffolk Council, Councillor John Griffiths has also secured an additional £160,000 through Suffolk Public Sector Leaders from the business rates retention pool. On top of this the council, following work with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, has secured £2.75m of Government investment from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government into the project. The money gives more cost certainty given the challenges to construction following COVID-19 and other external influences.

If I have any questions during the construction phase who can I contact?

Contact Barnes Construction site manager Steven Rouse on  07767 793261.

How will the site be managed during the process?

The following information has been provided by Barnes Construction.

Site set up and accommodation

The main site accommodation will be located on the site in an area that is allocated to the rear of the building.

The Site welfare facilities will include:

  • secure office or meeting room
  • canteen or drying room facility
  • secure store
  • toilet cubicles.

Vehicles will be banked (supervised) in from St Andrews Street South onto the site. All vehicular movements will be supervised by a qualified banksman on and off of the site.

The following site operation hours will apply:

Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm

Saturday 8am to 1pm (only in exceptional circumstances).

The site fencing will be checked on a daily basis by the site team as part of their daily inspection of the site. The site will also be secured each night by the locking of the gates in the site compound.

The site will also be visited and inspected by the Barnes Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality (SHEQ) team on a monthly basis as a minimum.

Route to site and access

The route to the site will be from St Andrews Street South and will allow access to the rear of the existing building. Vehicles exiting the site will use the same route.

A traffic priority system is also to be put in place to allow the compound to be constructed.

Controlling deliveries and traffic management

Safeguarding road users, pedestrians and cyclists is the highest priority.  For this project they will manage traffic on site through adopting the following specific control measures:

  • There will be no stopping or holding of vehicles on St Andrews Street South. This will be made clear at the time of placing orders with subcontractors and suppliers and as part of the induction on to the site.
  • All deliveries to the site will be managed using a time based delivery system controlled by the site team. Drivers will be asked to call half an hour prior to delivery to confirm access. This will prevent any deliveries stacking outside of site and causing congestion to the neighbouring roads. All subcontract orders will be detailed with these instructions and suppliers will be contractually bound to follow them.
  • The site team will hold a log of drivers and regular deliveries. This will ensure that the message is spread effectively throughout the duration of the contract.

Managing construction noise, dust and mud

Where practical, management of dust and noise will be achieved through:

  • isolated damping down
  • lorries to be covered when leaving site
  • hard stand to reduce any mud and debris transfer to the highway
  • monitoring of the works by site management
  • monitoring noise levels.

Neighbours

 Effective communication with the residents will be maintained by:

  • good signage around the site
  • contact details posted on the site notice board
  • reports and notice of noisy or disruptive events posted on the site notice board
  • newsletters delivered to neighbouring properties.