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Decision on redevelopment plans for 'ugliest building in Bury St Edmunds' is deferred

PUBLISHED: 05:30 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:44 29 March 2019

A visual by Pwp Architects showing the front of the redeveloped Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds.

A visual by Pwp Architects showing the front of the redeveloped Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds.

PWP ARCHIECTS

Plans to demolish an “ugly” shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds and replace it with a new building - including shops, flats and a 24-hour gym - have not satisfied decision makers.

A visual by Pwp Architects showing the view from Brentgovel Street.A visual by Pwp Architects showing the view from Brentgovel Street.

Many people welcome the redevelopment of the outdated and vacant Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in the town centre’s conservation area, but the proposal by London-based Knightspur Homes faces objections by neighbours and preservation groups.

They feel the proposed four-storey mock-Georgian building, which would be taller than the existing shopping centre, would be too big, would not work in harmony with neighbouring historic properties and would impinge on the privacy of nearby residents.

The gym may be operated by Anytime Fitness and Peter Murphy, chairman of Knightspur Homes, revealed his company is in talks with the Red Cross and The Entertainer toy shop for the other two retail units.

He said the decision of St Edmundsbury’s planning committee to defer the application until June because of design issues was a “massive disappointment”, adding it had to be “the ugliest building in the whole of Bury St Edmunds”.

It is proposed Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds is demolished and it replaced with a new building with retail units, a gym and flats Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELLIt is proposed Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds is demolished and it replaced with a new building with retail units, a gym and flats Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELL

He said: “It was a very big disappointment because we were banking on it and we had made lots of changes to it [already]. Everything the council had asked us to do we did.”

The plans, which were recommended for approval by planning officers, featured two retail units and another that could be for retail or a 24-hour gym potentially operated by Anytime Fitness, as well as 49 flats with 49 car parking spaces for residents, and public toilets.

Neighbours to the site, in Brentgovel Street, have also expressed concerns the level of parking spaces proposed is “inadequate” in an already oversubscribed part of the town and over noise generated from the site.

Mr Murphy said his team felt they had already addressed issues raised by the community, adding they were now unsure how to progress the application and needed to talk with planning officers.

The front of the Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELLThe front of the Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELL

Speaking on behalf of the Bury Society, Roderick Rees said they were “very pleased” the decision was deferred, adding it was “fundamental” to get the development of this key site right.

“It’s in the middle of the conservation area. Well Street [nearby] is a charming Georgian Street. We were very surprised officers had recommended approval.”

The Suffolk Preservation Society described the scheme as a “missed opportunity”.

The officers’ report said: “It is considered that the proposed development creates a well-designed and visually attractive scheme which incorporates a range of good quality materials and detailing.

The Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds is vacant Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELLThe Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds is vacant Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELL

“Officers believe that the adverse amenity effects have been minimised through amended plans and residential parking is sufficient, noting the sustainable location.

“The scheme is thought to respect the setting of adjacent listed buildings and enhance the character of the conservation area. The scheme also ensures provision of affordable housing and education contributions within a section 106 agreement which weighs notably in its favour.”

It did add that lack of parking for commercial units was among the negatives.

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