Former department store could be turned into shops and offices

The former Palmers store in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The former Palmers store in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Plans have been unveiled to convert the former Palmers department store in Bury St Edmunds into shops and offices.

West Suffolk Council is to consider an application by developers Pigeon Investment Management for permission to turn the ground floor into retail units and the first floor into an office.

The shop, in the town's Buttermarket, has been empty since closing in 2018 after more than 50 years trading there, with the loss of 35 jobs.

The ground floor would be divided into two units - one of 150sq m and the other of 107sq m.

Donald Barber of estate agents Fenn Wright, on behalf of Pigeon, said in an application report: "The current retail market and visibly empty units within the vicinity demonstrates the demand for one large retail unit is not currently viable.

"By splitting the unit into two smaller units the market requirement is more likely to be met and the possibility of securing a letting is increased.

"A smaller unit is much more desirable to independent retailers which particularly on Abbeygate Street are more prominent."

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The basement, second and third floors of the building would be used for storage.

Palmer's Fashion Store in Bury St Edmunds opened in 1961 and was later joined by a second shop in the town, Palmers Homestore, which opened in St Andrews Street in 1998.

The shop was the first expansion of the Palmers brand, which was originally established as a small drapery shop in Great Yarmouth in 1837. It has been on the market since closing on 2017 but efforts to find a buyer for the building have been unsuccessful.

The application said there had been speculative interest from high street names such as Oasis and Yours Clothing in taking half of the ground floor.

Similarly, the whole ground floor and basement was under offer over winter 2018 to food chain Pret A Manger.

"The only other interest in the whole building has been from pub and restaurant operators, but their interest has not been sufficiently strong to make offers," Mr Barber said in the report.

Consultations are now taking place on the application before a report is compiled for consideration by councillors later this year.

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