Residents support developer’s plan to turn empty Bury St Edmunds properties into homes

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Residents have shown support for a developer trying to bring empty town centre properties back into use as homes - despite councils’ objections.

Barry and Matthew Denny, of property development company Lark Valley Projects, want to convert 31-33 Guildhall Street, Bury St Edmunds, into two luxury apartments and a two-and-a-half-storey house.

But the ‘frustrated’ father and son have had several planning applications turned down and say they now regret ever buying the properties, which were, for many years, used by car accessories retailer Motorspares.

On Tuesday, they invited residents to an open meeting to discuss their plans for the ‘embarrassing eyesore’ which would see the street’s four-storey tower converted into apartments and a house built in place of the single-storey lean-to extension next door.

They said they had been left in an ‘impossible position’ with the borough council’s conservation officer wanting the buildings’ original facade retained but the county council’s highways officer wanting off-street parking provided, despite there being no amenity space in which to do so.

“We’re in a catch-22 situation whereby we can’t actually develop anything on this site because we have one officer saying one thing and another saying another thing, in contrast to each other,” said Barry.

The pair - who are paying business rates of almost £700 a month - received unanimous support for their proposal to turn the business properties into residential homes, with none of the 25 residents at the meeting wanting all of the properties’ facade retained.

Only four people said they preferred the latest, more contemporary, house design and just three thought off-street parking should be required.

Of the original design, for a ‘fake old house’, one resident said: “It looks very nice. I can’t see anything wrong with it at all and, if people don’t like it with no parking, I suggest they go to the country - it’s one of those things that, when you live in town, you have to put up with.”

“We did cite a lot of redevelopments in the historic grid that didn’t actually have parking but the council said precedent doesn’t count,” said Barry, adding that he thought the buildings would present a ‘much worse parking problem’ if used as retail shops.

The scheme’s architect, Mark Savin, said that even if they were permitted to take the shop fronts down to provide off-street parking, only a maximum of two spaces would be created, compared to a net loss of up to four cars from the street to allow access.

Speaking after the meeting, Matthew said: “It’s an impossible situation - we don’t know which way to turn. We need the council to see sense.”