Bury St Edmunds: Plans for Cupola House rebuild are recommended for approval

The fire at Cupola House on June 16 last year.

The fire at Cupola House on June 16 last year. - Credit: Archant

A restoration project for what has been described as one of Bury St Edmunds’ most iconic buildings has been recommended to go ahead.

Next week, a St Edmundsbury Borough Council committee will make a decision on planning and listed building applications for the rebuild of Grade I-Listed Cupola House in the Traverse.

Just over a year ago the 17th-Century building, which was home to Strada restaurant, was severely damaged by fire. All 120 diners were safely evacuated and no-one was hurt.

Planning officers have recommended that the borough council’s development control committee approves plans, submitted by the building’s owner OMC Investments, for the reconstruction.

The rebuild would see the cupola, from which the building takes its name, reinstated.

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Roderick Rees, on behalf of the Bury Society, said: “The society strongly supports the architects’ general design approach, which is to reinstate as much salvaged material as is reasonably practical and reconstruct those areas that have been destroyed.”

He added: “As the application is supported by a very comprehensive package of drawings and detailed information, the society is confident that the refurbishment will be carried out in a manner sympathetic to this historically-significant building.”

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The officers’ report said fire screens and pressurisation of the stairwell were part of a package of requirements, including sprinklers, which the fire service would comment on in detail at the building regulations stage.

Martin Lightfoot, chairman of the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust, called for fire safety checks at restaurants in historic buildings in Bury following the Cupola House blaze.

He said he was “pleased” the rebuild finally seemed to be happening, but it came down to the detail.

“It will be lovely to have it back again, but it needs to be done properly,” he said.

Paul Romaine, who renovated the building from 2003-04, and historian Dr Pat Murrell, who has researched Cupola House, have both objected to the plans.

As more of the building would be used by the restaurant, for example dining would be extended onto the second floor, they have expressed concern that too much focus is being placed on commercial use, rather than on the important building itself.

Dr Murrell said: “It’s not a return to the status quo.”

A year on from the fire on June 16, some traders in the Traverse are still feeling the effects of the drop in footfall in the street.

The development control committee meeting is on July 4.

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