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Developers announce plans to divide former BHS in Ipswich into seven units for gym, shops and restaurants

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:27 20 August 2017

The empty BHS building in Ipswich town centre. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

The empty BHS building in Ipswich town centre. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

Archant

Developers for the former BHS store in Butter Market, Ipswich, have unveiled plans to divide the building into seven separate units with a mix of shopping, leisure and restaurants.

A blanket collection for the homeless is being held outside the Buttermarket shopping centre. Picture: GREGG BROWNA blanket collection for the homeless is being held outside the Buttermarket shopping centre. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A full planning application was submitted to Ipswich Borough Council last week which proposes to divide up the derelict building, which would become two smaller retail units, three restaurants or cafes, a restaurant and bar and a gym.

A report by agents Barton Willmore said: “The development team have acknowledged that the site/building is in urgent need of a radical internal regeneration and refurbishment in-line with the current retail market in order to prevent any further decline in the area.

“The proposal, with the inclusion of a use for a gymnasium at first floor, will regenerate the site, strengthening the attraction of the Butter Market frontage while creating a lively and attractive destination for Arras Square in conjunction with the recent regeneration works to the Buttermarket Shopping Centre.

“This application seeks to address this point.”

The plans would mean the ground floor would be split into two retail stores at the front next to two restaurants or cafes, with a third cafe at the back by the Arras Square entrance.

The first floor will then be transformed into a gym on one side and a bar and restaurant on the other.

Floor manager Jazzy Laidlow closed the doors at BHS for the last time in August 2016. Picture: SU ANDERSONFloor manager Jazzy Laidlow closed the doors at BHS for the last time in August 2016. Picture: SU ANDERSON

It is not yet clear which firms have expressed an interest in any of the units.

The plans are currently in the consultation phase, with the matter due to go before planners in October for a decision.

A poll conducted by this newspaper online featured two thirds (67%) of more than 570 participants agreeing that the store should be divided up.

The ABC Cinema was in Butter Market before BHS filled the unitThe ABC Cinema was in Butter Market before BHS filled the unit

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said: “It is inevitable that this unit would be best subdivided and its future use fitting with the new Buttermarket scheme is absolutely right.”

He added that town centres of the future need to offer more than just retail.

Developers believe the market no longer calls for large town centre units but for a hybrid of smaller retail and leisure complexes as large retail chains opt for out-of-town retail parks.

BHS closed in August last year when the firm went into administration, having first filled the space in 1995, when the existing mall and shops were converted into one large unit.

During the early 1900s the site was used as a small independent store and alehouse, before being demolished in 1937 to become the Ritz Cinema, later becoming the Regal and the ABC.

The ABC ceased as a cinema there in 1986, where it laid vacant before opening as a retail annex to the Buttermarket in 1992.

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