The multi-million pound Guildhall Quarter proposals to redevelop three retail sites in the heart of Canterbury, including two due to close imminently with the departure of Debenhams, have been given the go-ahead by Canterbury City Council.
The £25m plans will make the Debenhams stores and former Cotswolds Outdoor store that front onto the High Street, GuildhallStreet, Buttermarket and Mercery Lane, fit for modern retailing and living.
The unanimously approved proposals, which will transform 93,000ft2 of retail space, were brought forward by property investment management company 90 North Real Estate, and designed byCanterbury-based Clague Architects, on behalf of Chaucer Property InvestmentLtd.
Work can now begin to create 12 shops better suited to today’s retailers, as 40 per cent of the Debenhams retail space had been empty for many years. The ground floor store on Guildhall Street, until recently trading as Cotswold Outdoors and also leased by Debenhams, will remain as a shop on the ground floor, and four apartments will be developed in the two floors above.
The residential element of the Guildhall Quarter will bring forward 74 apartments on the upper floors of the current Debenhams buildings, with 14 of them designed for accessible living.
Karl Elliott, Managing Partner at Clague Architects, said: “This is excellent news as it brings certainty to the future redevelopment and repurposing of these three significant sites, and minimise the time that they are vacant.
“The Council has demonstrated that it wants to see Canterbury’s city centre retain its position as Kent’s pre-eminent place to visit, live and do business. It’s a city built on heritage but it is also eager to look to the future, evolve, and meet the changing needs of retailers, residents and visitors.”
Lisa Carlson, Chief Executive of Canterbury BID, added: “There was the real concern that the long-term closure of the Debenhams and Cotswold stores would have blighted this high-profile part of the city centre.
“The Guildhall Quarter proposals send out the strong message that there is retail investment confidence inCanterbury and optimism about the city’s future.”
The successful application, originally submitted in October, follows a public exhibition held on 18 July at the former Multiyork shop in Best Lane. The exhibition welcomed 166 visitors, including members of the public, representatives from the City Council, the Canterbury BID team and local businesses.