Fears that fire damaged Cupola House in Bury St Edmunds could become ‘a film set’ rebuild

View of the damage to Strada, taken from the Multistar aeriel platform.
View of the damage to Strada, taken from the Multistar aeriel platform.

The man who led the restoration of Cupola House 10 years ago has raised concerns that the current project could create a ‘film set build’.

Paul Romaine led a £ 1million one-year restoration to bring the 17th century Grade I listed building back off the at-risk register in late 2003.

It is back on that register following last June’s devastating fire.

OMC Investments, which now owns the building in The Traverse, Bury St Edmunds, and Purcell architects, are waiting on a planning application to rebuild Cupola House, ready for Italian restaurant chain Strada to return in the summer next year.

But Mr Romaine has questioned the speed, investment and quality of what is being proposed – it has been reported the scheme will costs ‘in excess of £1 million’.

“I am very pleased to see that plans are progressing and the building could be brought back into use,” said Mr Ro maine.

“But I am concerned over the speed of the project and elements of the plan with regard to bringing the second and third floors into use.”

He said that fire regulations had prevented him from bringing the second and third floors into use as the only exit was via the original main oak staircase.

And he also said he was concerned that some of the internal work seemed more for ‘commercial benefit’, rather than restoring the building to its original design.

“I’m concerned that with the potential budget constraints we could end up with a film set build,” Mr Romaine said.

“You will have the exterior renovated but the interior will lack quality, integrity and character.

“We will have to trust the experts at English Heritage and St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s conservation department to ensure that the work is properly undertaken and we don’t lose one of the finest buildings in Bury.”

Architect, Robert Light from Purcell, said: “We are going to great lengths to reconstruct the building to a high standard and ensure that it will be a lasting community asset.

“While the internal wall construction is modern, the finishes will recreate the character of the original rooms.

“The restaurant use is only up to the second floor level and the design and use of this floor has been achieved through detailed discussions on technical performance with building control.

“The third floor accommodates administrative space.

“In recent years, Cupola House has become a successful restaurant enjoyed by the local community.

“The works to the building reflect this use and will accommodate facilities to enable it to continue to perform this function, while our detailed research and careful planning will make sure that the remaining historic fabric and its integrity will be safeguarded.”