The former Debenhams department store in Bristol city centre has a new owner, it can be revealed today (October 12) - as shop fittings from the landmark six-storey building were being dumped outside.
A London-based company called 33 Horsefair Limited has taken over and is now listed as ‘primary liable’ for the huge department store on a Bristol City Council document showing who is responsible for paying business rates.
The firm, established in November last year, is headed by Louise Staniforth and Nicholas Winsley, who are both board members for real estate managers AEW UK, which is one of the biggest landlords in Bristol city centre.
AEW UK also has significant control over 33 Horsefair Limited, owning at least 75% of shares, according to its listing on Companies House.
A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said Mayor Marvin Rees has been in discussions with the new owners, but could not be drawn to provide comment on their behalf. BristolWorld has approached both 33 Horsefair Limited and AEW UK for comment.
At this stage it is not clear what the new owners wish to do with the site. In May last year, AEW UK managing director Richard Tanner told publication City Wire that Government reforms to planning laws which make it easier to convert empty shops into homes had presented new opportunities amid a purchasing of Bristol properties for its portfolio.
AEW UK now owns several properties in the city centre, including in Broadmead, Union Street, Bond Street and Queen Square.
On the former Debenhams store, which faces both Horsefair and St James Barton, there had been previous talk of it becoming a mixed-use scheme with residential. In May this year, Mr Rees said any future use must tie in with the city council’s own plans for the city centre.
The city council is currently running a consultation on its city centre development and delivery plan, which will guide ‘recovery, regeneration and transformation’ of the area up to 2050.
It was in May last year when the Debenhams store closed down, ending nearly 50 years in the city for the retail chain which went into administration.
Today, metal sheets cover its doors and windows while graffiti has been sprayed above its entrance. A sign has been put up in its high elevator window for demolition firm Lawson Group.
To the side of the old department store, workers could be seen dropping interior fittings like rails and displays into a chute connected to scaffolding. Once on the floor of delivery yard the items were being placed into a large skip.
Prior to the takeover, Debenhams had owned the lease on the site with the term running until 2056. The site’s freehold owner is still Bristol City Council.