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West Suffolk Council submits plans for former Bury St Edmunds Post Office at 17-18 Cornhill

A planning application for an £8.4 million project to transform a key Bury St Edmunds town centre site has been submitted.

West Suffolk Council has revealed its latest proposals for the former Post Office, at 17-18 Cornhill, including two ground floor business units and 12 flats.

However, no affordable housing will be provided on site.

Instead, the council says it will deliver affordable housing elsewhere in the town by way of a commuted sum, allowing a registered provider to purchase the kind of affordable housing– in particular family-sized homes – those on the housing register need.

The council hopes to break even on the project.

Cllr John Griffiths, West Suffolk Council leader, said: “This is another exciting step in our investment to further improve the lovely town of Bury.

New plans for the former Post Office, in Bury St Edmunds (14230712)
New plans for the former Post Office, in Bury St Edmunds (14230712)

"It brings all kinds of improvements to Market Thoroughfare, which is a long-standing ambition, and it has the benefit of improvements to St Andrew’s Street South, where we hope other property owners will see what could be achieved with their buildings.

“We are not doing it for profit. We are doing it because we believe this is a great step for the town.”

Under the proposals Market Thoroughfare would be 1.4m wider – making it 3.8m instead of the current 2.4m – while 12 one, two and three-bedroom flats would be built over two retail units on the ground floor.

On Cornhill, steps would be removed from the Victorian facade and a second arch created, in a nod to the historic Bell Arcade at the site.

New plans for the former Post Office, in Bury St Edmunds (14230722)
New plans for the former Post Office, in Bury St Edmunds (14230722)

In St Andrew’s Street South, the rear of the building would be demolished and replaced by a new shopfront curving into Market Thoroughfare.

Cllr Susan Glossop, cabinet member for growth, said: “These designs have been shaped through the 8,000 comments we received when people took part in developing the Town Centre Masterplan.

"We held a public exhibition of concept drawings last summer and received huge praise and support.”

New plans for the former Post Office, in Bury St Edmunds (14230720)
New plans for the former Post Office, in Bury St Edmunds (14230720)

The planning application itself was delayed while the council explored how to deliver affordable housing.

It needed a registered provider to take on the ownership and management of the flats but none in West Suffolk would take on the scheme due to high service charges, which would make them too costly for those seeking affordable housing.

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing, said: “Without a registered provider we are unable to deliver affordable housing on site.

“Instead we are looking to deliver affordable housing, possibly even at social rents, in Bury, by way of a commuted sum. This effectively means we will provide the equivalent funding to enable a registered provider to purchase affordable housing.”

With the application submitted, the Development Control Committee are likely to discuss the proposal towards the end of the year. Subject to permission, work could start on site in February 2020 and be complete by July 2021.

Public reaction was positive when the first plans went on display last summer.

The planning application for the development can be found on the West Suffolk Council website, under reference number-DC/19/1623/FUL

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