Former Debenhams store in Bristol set for ‘really exciting’ mixed-use development

The former department store has been taken over by a London-based company
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The former Debenhams department store in Bristol city centre appears set for a mixed-use development with potential for residential space - with Mayor Marvin Rees describing it as one of a number of ‘really exciting’ projects in his State of the City Address.

The huge store closed in May last year and has since been taken over by a London-based firm called Horsefair 33 Ltd, as revealed by Bristol World earlier this month. The company is controlled by property giants AEW UK, which is one of the biggest landlords in the city centre.

AEW UK has not yet spoken publicly on its ambitions for the landmark site despite work taking place to strip the building of its retail fittings. But slightly more on what is planned has come from Mr Rees, who has been in discussions with the new owners.

Speaking at his State of the City Address, he said that the company planned for a mixed-use development - a project which comprises of a mixture of uses on one site. Uses can include leisure, retail, office space and residential.

It could follow what AEW UK are planning for another Debenhams store purchased in Chelmsford in Essex last year, where the multi-use options are said to be leisure, offices and/or residential.

Speaking last week at the State of the City address, Mr Rees said: “We’ve got developers investing in Debenhams, Broadmead, and The Galleries with really exciting mixed use projects. We’ve provided £1.3 million to support small businesses to bring vacant properties back into use and to reanimate our high streets.”

Later in his speech, when talking about the building of new homes and the need to protect land for employment and nature, he added: “Where we own the freehold of the land, like the Debenhams site, we have more influence and we use it, again to deliver against our city aims while acknowledging developer’s need for financial viability.”

Back in May, Mr Rees said any development of the former Debenhams store needed to be in line with the council’s vision for the city centre, which includes a 50-year blueprint called the City Centre Development and Delivery Plan.

The front of the former Debenhams store today (October 12) - the site has been soldThe front of the former Debenhams store today (October 12) - the site has been sold
The front of the former Debenhams store today (October 12) - the site has been sold

At the time, he said: “They [the then prospective buyers of the former Debenhams store] are obviously looking to get the return on their investment, we say we recognise you need to get that return but what happens to that building has to be in line with Bristol’s broader needs and ambitious.”

The closure of the department shop in The Horsefair overlooking St James Barton roundabout ended nearly 50 years in the city for Debenhams, which had owned the lease on the site with the term running until 2056.

Before any work can be carried out on the site, a planning application would need to be submitted and approved. Under the planning system, there would be an opportunity for a public consultation.

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