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Former Barretts car dealership, Canterbury, to become student reception area and coffee shop


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A prime high street spot occupied by Barretts car dealership for more than 100 years is to be turned into a cafe and reception area for student flats, it has been confirmed.

Developers faced backlash when their proposals to “breathe new life” into the bottom end of St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, were first revealed.

How the interior is set to look. Picture: ASIllustration
How the interior is set to look. Picture: ASIllustration

Critics argued the prominent location should be protected for retail use, and claimed the change of use at the large unit would “seriously disrupt” the city’s flow of shops.

But after amending its plans to include digital window displays, Paul Roberts Developments gained the support of Canterbury’s Business Improvement District (BID), which had originally opposed the scheme.

Sixteen months after submitting its bid to transform the site, the firm was granted permission from the city council last week.

The student reception area will act as a welcome centre to a 143-bed student accommodation complex which is currently under construction behind the former car showroom.

Meanwhile, the small coffee shop will be open for both the public and students to use.

Digital information boards will be displayed in the windows
Digital information boards will be displayed in the windows

The plans still failed to win over some critics - including the Alliance of Canterbury Residents Associations and The Canterbury Society - but the developers are nevertheless looking to start work on their project.

Applicant Paul Roberts said: “By working with the council and others we have been able to address their initial concerns, to take on board their comments and to incorporate their suggestions.

“The result is a better scheme than the one we started off with.

“It will be a very attractive and vibrant use of the former car showroom.

“We have collaborated with BID to incorporate window displays and features to provide visitors and residents with information about what the city has to offer, its attractions and forthcoming events.

A 143-bed student complex is being built behind
A 143-bed student complex is being built behind
The old showroom is in a prime high street spot
The old showroom is in a prime high street spot

“This is an important building at the northern end of the city centre and a vital part of our comprehensive proposals for the former Barretts site which includes the adjacent student accommodation currently under construction.

“We are confident that it will breathe new life to this end of the high street and an attractive entrance to the city from the Westgate Towers.”

Prior to the unveiling of the proposal, plans were drawn up for a restaurant/wine bar or a number of shops, but that vision was dropped.

In granting permission for the latest scheme, the city council said: “While the application proposes facilities ancillary to the approved student accommodation, an independent coffee shop has been introduced during the course of the application.

There will be a reception area, coffee shop and meeting rooms. Picture: ASIllustration
There will be a reception area, coffee shop and meeting rooms. Picture: ASIllustration
The plans have now been approved by the city council. Picture: ASIllustration
The plans have now been approved by the city council. Picture: ASIllustration
The old Barretts site has been empty for two years
The old Barretts site has been empty for two years

“This is considered to introduce a retail use to the application and create a more active shop frontage to the city centre than the current and approved uses, thereby contributing to the vitality and viability of the city centre.”

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