Mixed-use scheme in Bury St Edmunds nears completion

01 Dec 21

Fenn Wright were appointed on behalf of a major national developer, CDP Ltd, who acquired Palmers House, a prominent and historic building in the centre of Bury St Edmunds.  Following the successful Listed Building and Change of Use consent applications secured by our Building Consultancy team, the scheme is set to be completed just days before Christmas.

The scheme provides 2 ground floor retail units of approx. 1,450sq ft and 8 high specification residential apartments over three floors, including basement storage, extensive cycle storage facilities and a lift.  The developer engaged the services of Fenn Wright to advise on Listed Building matters in order to identify the historic fabric and assess its significance within the context of the historic building.

By undertaking detailed analysis, Donald Barber, Chartered Building Surveyor at Fenn Wright, advised the design team on how minor alterations to the scheme could result in significant amounts of the historic fabric being preserved, without impacting the viability of the scheme.  Liaising closely with the local Conservation Officer and Planning Authorities is key when working on projects such as this, where the retention of historic fabric in a building with this stature is paramount.  The team subsequently prepared Planning & Listed Building applications to support the scheme.  Significant challenges were faced during the course of the conversion, relating to both the existing structure and retained historical elements, where accurate analysis, recording and adaptability of the scheme were vital.

Former Palmers building

Due for completion this month, there are 2 ground floor retail units of approx. 1,450sq ft and 8 high specification residential apartments.

Following extensive changes to the Permitted Development order, further residential schemes are also likely with the amalgamation of existing use classes from Class E.  This now allows the change of use from commercial, office, business and service uses (Class E) to residential use (Class C3).  The change came into effect on 1st August 2021 and has been implemented in an attempt to regenerate town centres.  There are conditions, however, and this is not applicable to Listed Buildings, Natural Parks, AONB, Article 4 areas etc. and developments are limited to 1,500m2.  The permitted development rights do extend to Conservation Areas, although can be subject to scrutiny by the Local Authority.

Donald Barber commented “As the retail landscape continues to evolve, owners and investors are looking to maximise returns and limit losses by converting unused upper parts of commercial premises into residential accommodation.  Recently, in Colchester High Street alone, there have been at least 10 applications submitted for consideration.

Whilst planning has seemingly become easier to achieve, it is essential to consider the technical viability and feasibility, particularly with ongoing ground floor occupation.  I predict that we will see an increasing number of enquiries and schemes of this nature as we go into 2022.”

Fenn Wright have successfully obtained full consent on several residential conversion schemes in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford, with further schemes in the region ongoing.  For Permitted Development applications, under the new Class MA there are significantly fewer validation requirements for prior approval schemes, however, set criteria must be met.  From 1st August 2020, additional criteria for submission have been required to improve schemes such as provision of natural light to habitable rooms, whilst from the 6th April 2021, compliance with the minimum space standards is required.

Fenn Wright’s Building Survey team act for clients throughout East Anglia on a range of planning matters such as, Permitted Developments, Full Planning Conversions, Historic Building Advice and New Build Schemes.  For more information, please contact Nigel Berry or Donald Barber on 01206 216559 or email buildingconsultancy@fennwright.co.uk.

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