Published: 19:49, 07 January 2020
| Updated: 08:23, 08 January 2020
Planners have unanimously given the go-ahead for the ambitious £25 million redevelopment of a doomed Debenhams store.
There was overwhelming support for the plans which was widely praised at a meeting last night and the scheme in Canterbury will see the huge site in the High Street and Guildhall Street redeveloped with 12 new retail/cafe units with 74 flats above.
The proposal first revealed last July was widely welcomed during a public consultation and now the city council's planning committee has given it the green light.
Developers are expected to start work on the complex redevelopment, which covers three sites, as soon as the department store closes on January 19.
Planning officers recommended the application be approved after the scheme was tweaked to remove two flats from the top floor over concerns about sight lines across the historic city.
But some conservationists are still anxious about the upper floor extensions to the main building.
The site is now owned by Chaucer Property Investment Ltd and the project is being led by 90 North, which commissioned Canterbury-based architects Clague to draw up the designs for the complex 93,000 sq ft site - some of which dates back to 12th century.
It is proposed to subdivide the existing department store on the High Street, Guildhall Street, the Buttermarket and Mercery Lane into separate retail units - ranging from 1,885ft to 10,550ft - to accommodate the needs of today’s retail, food service and hospitality businesses.
Above the shops and cafes will be one, two and three-bedroom flats, some with roof top terraces, with prices ranging from about £285,000 to £550,000.
Cllr Nick Eden-Green called it a 'text book case' of how such a scheme should be done with everyone given a chance to have their say.
Cllr Neil Baker added: "It's an absolutely great example of what can be done within the constraints of an historic setting."
The committee had been urged to support the application by the chief executive of the Canterbury Connected Business Improved District, Lisa Carlson.
She said Canterbury needed to evolve and offer something fresh in a fast changing retail environment.
"Boarded up stores undermine investment confidence which harms the experience for visitors and residents," she said.
"If we fail to secure modern retail investment, there's the real risk that Canterbury will only be known for its past."
She said that backing the project would send a timely positive message to the city's business community.
Karl Elliott from Clague Architects, said the mix of smaller shops were much better suited to the site and there was already interest in them from retailers.