Former NatWest bank on track to pair with John Peel Centre in Stowmarket

The former NatWest bank in Stowmarket Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The former NatWest bank in Stowmarket Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

The former NatWest bank in Stowmarket could be paired with the John Peel Centre to create a thriving cultural hub for the town.

A planning application has been submitted by Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) to change the use of the Grade II listed building from ‘Professional and Financial Services’ to ‘Mixed Uses’, potentially incorporating food, drink and leisure services.

According to the planning statement, this could mean transforming the site – which is already attached to the John Peel Centre – into a combination of an eatery and/or bar and separate leisure facility, with “the whole building to be occupied”.

The document states: “It is envisaged that the whole of the premises is used to complement the cultural attraction that is the John Peel Centre, broadening its tourism, entertainment, leisure, refreshment and dining facilities.”

However it is added that the proposal is “speculative” as “no operator has been identified at this stage”, meaning the specific mix of uses cannot be confirmed.

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There is a particular focus on the building’s potential to boost Stowmarket’s “evening economy” – with alcohol proposed to be permitted on site.

It is also made clear that the ground floor should continue to be used for retail purposes (which includes food and drink), while there is greater flexibility upstairs.

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The planning statement adds that, since no changes are proposed to the building fabric, there will be no need to seek Listed Building Consent.

The Stowmarket bank closed its doors in September last year, shortly before the closure of branches in Felixstowe and Woodbridge, with NatWest blaming the cuts on a sharp reduction in transactions.

Discussions about the future of the site were underway in April last year, when the clerk to the town council revealed at a meeting that they were in talks with the bank. MSDC’s bid for the building was later accepted in February of this year.

Then last month, the public were invited to have their say on the future uses of ths site.

Nick Gowrley, MSDC’s cabinet member for assets and investment, said: “This building has been at the heart of Stowmarket for decades: sitting on the market place it is immediately recognisable to all the town’s residents and we’re determined to ensure it benefits the town centre for decades to come. There’s a lot of potential in the building and we’re working to show just how versatile a space it is, with this planning application reminding people that it can be far more than an office. We’re still in discussions about the future use of the building, but I hope this work reminds both residents and potential users just how big an opportunity this represents.”

The building was the original entrance to Stowmarket Corn Exchange, before the rear section was turned into the John Peel Centre.

A spokesperson for the John Peel Centre added: “To have a flexible ‘change of use’ planning application granted for the former NatWest building would be great news for the town because it would mean the building could be used for a range of purposes and provide so much more opportunity for local residents and visitors to the town in terms of leisure and entertainment. We are in continued discussions with Mid Suffolk District Council regarding how the John Peel Centre might be involved in the exciting future of the building.”

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