Stratford’s neglected former BHS building is set for a new lease of life after plans to fill the complex with restaurants and retail were submitted last week.
The application, from Hermes Investment Management, details a proposal for two A3 food and drink units and one A1 retail unit within the site.
Each unit would be spread over two floors, with additional retail/storage space located on the top floor of the building.
The plan details how the rear service yard would be extended and the escalators inside the building would be replaced with a small passenger lift.
Listed areas of the site will see modern fixtures stripped out and the proposed ground floor retail unit would potentially provide a link between Bridge Street and Guild Street.
Elsewhere the canopy over the entrance to the modern extension will be removed, external terrace areas will be remodelled and a replacement shopfront will be fitted to the curved ground floor corner unit.
According to the application there is already interest in the two food and drink units and drawings have been prepared with these clients in mind.
The idea of using part of the complex as a hotel, floated earlier this year, appears to have been dropped from the plans.
Although plans to bring the building back into use are likely to be welcomed in Stratford, proposals for two new restaurants may raise a few eyebrows.
In recent times Stratford has seen a number of large retail chains leave, yet many restaurants have been set up, leading some to question whether the town is becoming too saturated with food and drink businesses.
Stephen Ellis, Asset Manager, Hermes Investment Management, said: “We are pleased to confirm that, at the end of June, we submitted a planning application for the refurbishment of the former BHS site. We have always wanted to bring the site back into use in a meaningful way that responds to current retail demands – and we aim to achieve this by sub dividing the unit.
“We have been working hard alongside Stratford on Avon District Council and anticipate there to be further developments over the summer and towards the end of the year. We look forward to providing a further update in due course and when there are any concrete developments.”
The building has been empty for two years since the closure of BHS with the loss of 30 jobs.
Since that time some residents have complained about how the site has deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance.
Former Stratford Mayor Cyril Bennis even submitted an application to have the building demolished in 2016, describing it as an eyesore that had plagued the town for years.
Joe Baconnet, Director of Stratforward, said: “It would be a massive positive for Stratford to bring that building back into use, it’s an important entry point for the town. We have been pushing for as much retail as possible to be included in the plan, but we have to be realistic, the market is changing and the owners need to ensure it is a viable long-term development and they can make money out of the building.
“The A1 retail market is very soft at the moment and businesses are very cautious in the current environment.
“BHS did not look after their buildings, I visited the Stratford site a year ago and it’s clear that it’s going to be difficult and complex process to bring it back into use. However it’s a no-brainer really to get some food businesses in because parts like the old café area are stunning.
“I don’t necessarily think this plan precludes more retailers coming in, I think if the right retailer showed a firm interest the owners would potentially do a deal and apply for change of use.”
David Renfrew, of the Stratford Society, added: “Firstly, progress towards bringing this prominent group of buildings back into use is to be welcomed. It is good that repairs are under way to the neglected Grade II Listed Building.
“Plainly, retail is facing challenging times in most towns around the country. The prospect of BHS being replaced by a single store was never likely, but it is good that there is to be one retail unit.
“The other two are to be Use Class A3/A4 – restaurant/drinking establishments, the possibility of a Hotel has been mentioned but access for such use would be difficult. Stratford is not short of restaurants and bars, but such ventures in this prime location could be successful.”