Stratford BHS building to get makeover before being converted into hotel
THE shabby BHS building has at last been scheduled for a much-needed makeover.
The department store which is situated on a large plot at the bottom of Bridge Street fell into ruin after it closed in 2016. It has since been blasted as an embarrassing eyesore, especially as it is one of the first things visitors to Stratford see when approaching from south of the river.
Now it is set to be transformed into a modern 170-bedroom hotel when work starts on the site this autumn.
However after detailed enquiries this week, the Herald can reveal that the building – parts of which are listed – will first undergo a short-term renovation programme to tidy up the appearance of the site.
A date for the major construction work in the autumn has yet to be fully confirmed.
Lloyd Entwhistle of Colliers commercial estate agents said: “Developer Beyond Retail Property Fund Limited bought the site in 2019 and we advise them on the future development.
“Beyond Retail secured planning permission for a 170-bed hotel and restaurant on the ground floor in 2020. Things have been delayed by Covid but construction is due to commence in the autumn with an 18- month build programme.”
In the meantime, measures are in place to restore the damaged areas and redecorate the front of the building. This work should start within a month of planning consent being granted following a listed building application.
Stratford District Council leader Cllr Tony Jefferson (Con, Welcombe) said: “The district council knows about the state of the building and both enforcement and conservation are involved because the site is a complete mess.
“The owners will now have to tidy it up. If it had not been for Covid I suspect it would have been developed but the pandemic put a lot of things on hold.”
During the six-year wait for development of the site it has been neglected, with weeds growing unchecked and woodwork rotting away. This has been seen by many as undermining for the town’s reputation as a top tourist attraction.
Dr Kevin Bond, president of the Stratford Society, said: “The building just degrades the whole of Stratford town centre. Research undertaken around the world shows that safety and comfort makes an immediate impression of either care or neglect. The external part of the building should be cleaned, tidied and well-presented.”
Diane Mansell, Stratfoward BID manager said: “This is a massively important building as regards Stratford town centre and the sooner it’s brought back into use the better for all.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced many projects like this to be put on ice but with many business sectors now moving towards pre-pandemic trading levels, we are seeing evidence of projects like this getting back on stream almost on a daily basis. The BID are in close contact with stakeholders involved to ensure all is done to see as speedy and positive outcome as possible.”
Geraldine Collinge, director of creative placemaking and public programmes at the RSC and chair of the Stratford Town Centre Strategic Partnership Group said: “The group is made up of several key organisations and stakeholders working collaboratively to improve Stratford for the future.
“One of the areas that we are currently investigating are the empty shops around Stratford and how we can help stimulate their reopening, as well as reimagining their future use. We know that the former BHS building is of particular interest to Stratford as one of the larger buildings in the town and we are looking at how we can help to move its redevelopment forward.”