Colchester: Major �30million revamp for Williams and Griffin set for approval - despite heritage concerns

PLANS for a �30million revamp of an historic Colchester department store are set to approved next week - despite concerns from heritage experts.

The scheme for Williams and Griffin, based in the high street, involves expanding its retail space by 50% and adding a modern glass facade.

The redevelopment has been recommended for approval when it goes before Colchester Borough Council’s (CBC) planning committee on Thursday.

This is despite objections from English Heritage, which has raised concerns about the demolition of 147 and 149 High Street.

In a statement it said: “This demolition has not been fully justified as the internal rearrangement of the store does not require this loss.

“Both were erected in the late 1920s after a fire destroyed their predecessors and were designed by local architects of note. Their style has been described as ‘restrained commercial classical’ although there are clearly references to the Art Deco style that was burgeoning at the time they were erected.”

English Heritage’s views were echoed by Colchester Civic Society.

Most Read

The society’s Austin Baines said in a letter to planners: “The frontage of the buildings does not relate to the style or design of the surrounding buildings and although a possible improvement on the ‘main’ Williams and Griffin building, the new frontage does remove an element of Art Deco/Commercial Classical character in place of a plain glass exterior.

“This proposal for redevelopment of retail space should enhance the town centre as a shopping attraction. The society welcomes the fact the applicants are prepared to invest significant sums to this end.”

But the report that will go CBC’s planning committee concluded: “The redevelopment proposal brings a significant investment into Colchester’s town centre with a number of benefits to the local economy and for local residents of Colchester and beyond.

“The benefits of economic investment come at the cost of some harm to the historic environment in that buildings will be lost.

“However, there are also benefits to the historic environment from certain aspects of the scheme and there

are wider environmental improvements from the greater sustainability of the new construction. On balance, your officer considers that the scheme brings greater benefits than it causes harms.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter