Post Office - 17-18 Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds

The Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan

In 2017 St Edmundsbury Borough Council working with partners representing the business community and other key stakeholders asked you as residents, workers, shoppers or visitors to help shape a town centre masterplan.

This wasn’t about change for change sake but asked what improvements needed to be made to help the town centre adapt both to future growth and changing behaviours in the way we shop and spend our leisure time.

Over 8000 comments were received. Among the top priorities, people identified were improvements to Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews Street South to make the town centre feel better integrated, more whole and encourage movement  between the historic town centre and the arc.

These aspirations were included in the final masterplan, which was adopted by the council in December 2017:

  • Market Thoroughfare – improvements to provide continuity from the historic centre to the arc.
  • Develop the area between the arc and Cornhill that is St Andrews Street South to provide for a mix of uses and to establish closer integration.

The masterplan is also about protecting and celebrating our heritage in a changing world – respecting our history without becoming history.

The adopted masterplan now guides all development and redevelopment taking place in the town centre up to 2031.

The growth investment strategy

Alongside the masterplan, the West Suffolk Growth Investment Strategy sets out how we prioritise the investments we make.

This means that, unlike a private development company, we don’t simply consider the maximum financial return, but look at the social, environmental and community benefits projects can bring and how we can support the local economy as well as how they can help pay towards the day to day services that we provide.

So why invest in 17-18 Cornhill?

In 2016 the Post Office took the commercial decision to relocate its business into part of the neighbouring WH Smith store.

The council identified the site as important due to the priorities emerging in the masterplan, particularly its relationship to the historic town centre, Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews Street South.

We saw that this was an important opportunity to deliver a major enhancement to this key gateway in the town, which could potentially deliver:

  • improvements to Market Thoroughfare, possibly including surface, lighting and widening
  • a new shop front on St Andrews Street South, setting the scene to encourage others to invest in further improvements in the area
  • provision of much needed housing to help toward meeting demand (12-13 flats)
  • protection of the historic and much-loved building front facing onto Cornhill.

Why the council?

If a private developer bought the building, it is likely that they would want to maximise their financial return and the council could only influence what they did through the planning process. This would mean reacting to their proposals, rather than proactively coming forward with our own.

Put more simply if we didn’t take the initiative then it is likely that none of these wider benefits would ever happen. By the council buying it, we can use our growth investment strategy to consider the wider benefits that we can bring, making it much more than a profit-making exercise.

So what has happened?

We acted quickly when the property became available, buying the property for £1.6m following an independent valuation and extensive checks.

We engaged conservation architects (Donald Insall Associates) with a track record of similar projects to produce designs which met the local priorities.

In May this year, councillors agreed to invest £6.72m to develop a mix of residential and commercial spaces on the site, retaining the historic frontage and improving Market Thoroughfare.

Who is involved?

Although the council owns the building, we are working with a wide range of partners to ensure the project continues to meet the needs of the town.

We are working closely with the Bury St Edmunds Town Trust, a registered charity who work to conserve the architectural heritage of the town. There is also an advisory group made up of representatives of local businesses, market stallholders, conservation groups and more. This partnership helps to ensure the project will not only be policy compliant, but will work to meet the needs of all the town’s users.

Designs for the site will go on show at a public exhibition in the building at 17-18 Cornhill. The exhibition will take place on Wednesday 27 June and Saturday 7 July from 8am to 4pm on both days. Alternatively you can view them here and give your feedback by emailing cornhill.project@westsuffolk.gov.uk. You can comment on the designs until 5pm 20 July 2018.

Click on any of the images to view the designs:

Cornhill front visual Cornhill front old Bell Arcade Market Thoroughfare entrance into Cornhill Market Thoroughfare visual Market Thoroughfare St Andrews St South Entrance St Andrews St South Visual from Auction Street St Andrews Street South from outside Burger King sketch

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