Work has started to “open up” the former BHS store in Lancaster city centre.
The redevelopment will include new separate shop fronts on the ground floor and new windows on the first floor, enabling the building to be subdivided inside.
The Market Street building’s owners - London based property developers K/S Habro - said the changes “will provide a positive contribution to Market Street and will enhance the character and appearance of the area”.
K/S Habro - Lancaster C/o Habro Properties Ltd submitted a planning application for the building in July, which Lancaster City Council passed in September.
There is no detail as yet about specific businesses or traders that will take up the potential new units, however we reported in January 2018 that a property company had expressed an interest in developing ground floor café and restaurant units and a first floor licensed premises and gym.
The Lancaster BHS store shut for good in August 2016 after the company went into administration and failed to secure a new owner.
General manager at the time Julie Shingleton told the Lancaster Guardian that it was a “sad day” for the 30 staff who clocked off for the final time on August 8 2016.
The planning application states: “Since British Home Stores ceased trading in late 2016 the Property has remained vacant whilst the investors and their stakeholders formulate an appropriate strategy to revive and revitalise it. In essence certain aspects of the Property’s original design require attention as an input to making it a more suitable and attractive opportunity for current and modern occupiers.
“A key aspect here is the presentation of the Property along its “inactive” Market Street frontage where only two small entrances provide means of access and egress within a large flat panel façade which, whilst not overtly unattractive, contributes little by way of “active” frontage to the Market Street pedestrianised area.
“The proposals outlined within the application are vital to creating a new and exciting future for the Property.
“They seek to revitalise, re-energise and regenerate the frontage to Market Street and thus create further opportunities for greater flexibility in the future use of this large format retail Property, that was originally designed for a single occupier department store.”
Hugh Roberts, on behalf of Lancaster Civic Society, said: “We welcome the fact that proposals are coming forward for the re-use of this prominent city centre site.
“Although a full re-design of the out-dated front elevation would have been preferable, it is accepted that this is probably commercially unviable.
“The proposed four replacement entrances are acceptable in design and it is noted that materials will be used to blend in with the existing facade.”
The planning application goes on to say: “The design solution proposed is to ‘open-up’ the existing Market Street façade, which currently acts as a visual block to the retail space contained within the existing building.
“The proposals include for the formation of smaller individual frontages, to give the visual appearance of 4no. smaller units at ground level and to soften the existing hard, inactive façade.
“This will include the insertion of contemporary glazed aluminium shopfronts, in compliance with modern DDA access requirements, incorporating integral signage zones (separate applications are to be made in due course with regard to advertisement consent for new signs).
“Existing internal and external ground levels are to be adjusted to provide for level access at all proposed entrance doors. Coloured Aluminium clad casings are proposed as a method to frame the new shopfronts and create depth to the elevation.
“At first floor level, the existing stone façade mass will be broken up with the formation of new window openings, with associated dressings to provide visual
interest to the upper façade.
“The improvements will also offer the First Floor much needed natural light and offer a direct link to the High Street environment below.”