See how this former town centre post office is being transformed
A key project to better integrate the old and new parts of Bury St Edmunds town centre will help encourage further transformation in the area, according to a council leader.
A planning application for 17-18 Cornhill, the former post office, is to be submitted by West Suffolk Council on August 6.
The £8.4million redevelopment of the iconic Victorian building will see the Cornhill frontage retained and the creation of a second arch to widen the Market Thoroughfare walkway from 2.4m to 3.8m.
A proper link between the modern Arc shopping centre and the old quarter has been a long-standing issue for businesses and was a key aspiration of the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan.
The scheme will see the building house two ground floor retail units and 12 flats above, along with a new curved shop front on St Andrew's Street South leading into Market Thoroughfare.
The council said the plans are also designed to "reinvigorate" St Andrew's Street South, which runs between the Arc and the historic town centre, and "act as a catalyst" for further changes in the area.
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John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said it is hoped the project will break-even and encourage other investors to see what can be achieved.
"This is about the council investing, taking the lead and a key stake in the future growth of Bury St Edmunds town centre, not just as a place to trade, but as a place to work, live, visit and enjoy social and leisure activities," he said.
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"We have always been keen that this project would deliver economic and social improvements for the town as well as contributing to its future success as a place that people want to come to.
"The hope is that this development will act as a catalyst in encouraging more investment."
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The council said the delay in submitting the application was down to the authority exploring how to deliver affordable housing as part of the scheme.
To deliver affordable housing the council needs a registered provider to take on the ownership and management of the flats, but none of the major registered providers were interested due to high service charges.
The council's own planning policy means that developments over 10 homes or more need to deliver 30% affordable housing on-site or in exceptional circumstances the equivalent value off-site.
Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk Council cabinet member for housing, said: "Without a registered provider we are unable to deliver affordable housing on site.
"A traditional developer may have simply scaled back the number of flats so not to cross the threshold requiring affordable housing.
"That is not our approach. Instead we are looking to deliver affordable housing, possibly even at social rents, in Bury St Edmunds, by way of a commuted sum. "This effectively means that we will provide the equivalent funding to enable a registered provider to purchase affordable housing. We will provide extra units on top of what is already being provided by that registered provider."
Subject to approval, work on the site could start as early as February 2020, with an estimated completion date of July 2021.