First stage of post office redevelopment gets underway

Mark Bailey of Barnes Construction pictured outlining the work to protect the historic Cornhill front to Cllr John Griffiths, Leader of West Suffolk Council – Photo: West Suffolk Council

Work has begun to protect the historic front of a former post office building as the first stage of redevelopment gets underway.

The Victorian frontage at building on Cornhill in Bury St Edmunds is being kept while the rest of the building behind, including parts which were added on at a later stage, is gradually being demolished.

West Suffolk Council bought the empty site in 2017, a year after the Post Office decided to relocate its business into WH Smith next door, and has worked with partners to bring forward the scheme.

The redevelopment, being carried out by Suffolk firm Barnes Construction working with Concertus Design and Property Consultants, will deliver new ground floor commercial units with 12 flats above.

By widening Market Thoroughfare by over 50 per cent and creating a new commercial frontage onto St Andrews Street South, the council will also be delivering on some of the aims of the town centre masterplan.

The very first step of the project was to ensure the protection of the historic Cornhill front, a job for Barnes’ structural engineers Superstructures.

James Potter, managing director of Superstructures said: “The retention of the existing Post Office façade is a complicated design process.

“Superstructures has designed a system that will clamp steel beams to the front and rear of the façade. This is then fixed onto triangular trusses that get supported at ground floor level.

“At the base of the temporary structure we have a mass of concrete blocks, a bit like Lego bricks, that will hold the structure in place until the new steel frame for the building is constructed behind. This will then provide the permanent support allowing the temporary structure to be removed.”

Cllr John Griffiths, Leader of West Suffolk Council said: “The Victorian front is an important part of our town’s history and heritage. From day one, our plan, and our challenge has been about how we keep this wonderful piece of architecture and bring it back into use, while also achieving the dramatic and important changes needed to Market Thoroughfare and St Andrews Street South. The structural engineering that will protect the Cornhill front is both complex and fascinating – and crucial to its success.”

Mark Bailey, Director at Barnes Construction added: “It is great to see the initial phase on the redevelopment of this landmark building in the centre of Bury St Edmunds taking shape. Once the façade retention is completed, we will be moving onto the careful removal of the building immediately behind and then the groundworks to support the new building.”  

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