Backing for plan to cut size of former M&S store
PUBLISHED: 19:01 09 September 2019
The premises in Hamilton Road have stood empty since April after Marks and Spencer closed the store after 80 years.
Occidental Ltd has applied for planning permission for a project which would see the ground floor commercial space reduced from 578sq m to 311sq m, with extensions and conversions to create two studio flats, eight one-bed and six two-bed apartments.
Documents submitted to East Suffolk Council (ESC) say 16 employees would work in the shop compared with 30 previously.
Felixstowe Town Council's planning and environment committee said has discussed the plans and has recommended approval.
However, councillors said they were "disappointed that the scheme does not provide for any affordable housing".
The committee has strongly requested that windows onto Hamilton Road are either retained or replaced in a sympathetic style mirroring the existing attractive windows in the conservation area.
The Felixstowe Society feels the proposal will have little impact on the conservation area and welcomes the diversification and reuse of a vacant building.
People living in Hamilton Road have written to ESC - which will make the decision - to give the scheme their full support, praising it as "magnificent" and sensitive.
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Agent ECE Planning Ltd said the M&S upper floors had been underutilised while the revamped shop space will still be larger than most of the town centre units.
ECE said: "Changes to the supply chain and 'just in time' systems mean that many retailers do not carry the same amount of stock they once did. Fenn Wright note in their report that, in their experience, smaller retail units with limited ancillary areas are vastly more desirable than larger stores. The overheads are substantially reduced, but still offer the presence that retailers desire, particularly when linked with an online connection via click and collect.
"The report concludes that a reduction in the retail and ancillary floorspace will be very likely to increase the prospects of achieving a letting for a retail use which will in turn help reduce the amount of time the unit will remain vacant for."
There appears to be no chosen end user yet. The premises remain for rent for £130,000 a year with business rates of £40,824.
Architects Barefoot and Gilles said: "The starting point for the design was to revive underperforming accommodation, the current configuration of which is no longer in demand."