Unanimous backing for new use for Ipswich's closed former BHS store
PUBLISHED: 12:16 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 13:30 13 December 2017
Proposals to split the former BHS store in Ipswich Butter Market into seven individual food and retail units have been given unanimous backing by the borough.
Members of the council’s planning and development committee unanimously backed plans to split the building into three family-style restaurants and two shops on the ground floor.
On the first floor there will be a pub/restaurant and a gym.
The application was passed although the proposed number of restaurants in the application is greater than would normally be acceptable in a retail area – but councillors felt this reflected the changing face of retail generally, and retailing in Ipswich in particular.
The application has been lodged by the owner of the former BHS store, Danish property group K/S Habro, which has linked up with Ken Ford – who masterminded the transformation of the nearby Buttermarket Centre – to redevelop the BHS site.
No operators for the new restaurants, shops, or pub have yet come forward – but the developers believe there is still a demand for units of this size in Ipswich town centre.
At the planning meeting Labour councillor Bill Knowles, a former senior manager at the Co-op, said the fact that the application had come forward showed how retailing had changed.
He said: “You may remember that was originally a number of small shops then it was converted into a large single unit when the fashion was for what were known as ‘variety stores.’
“Well now, with internet shopping and other changes those kind of stores have gone out of fashion and we have to accept that – this is welcome development at this site.”
Portfolio holder for planning Carole Jones asked why no retailer looking for a ‘big box’ store had been interested in the site.
Planning officer Jason Burgess said the applicants said that they had tried to find a retailer interested in taking on the site as it is at present – but they had not been successful in finding anyone interested in a large unit in that position.
The external appearance of the building will not change significantly – and individual shop/restaurant fronts will still have to get planning approval before work is completed.