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Letter: Demolition Is Not the Best Option for the Debenhams Building

Published on: 18 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 18 Sep, 2022

The empty Debenhams building

From: Bibhas Neogi

See also: Demolition of Debenhams Would Be a Polluting Waste of Resources and Debenhams Worst Outcome Is Years Of Vacant Dereliction

I am not against the development of Debenhams site but the way ahead does not necessarily mean demolition and rebuild. If the building is sound, and I believe it is, it should be reused, repurposed, altered sensibly, and extended upwards for residential use.

The developer needs to make a reasonable profit. Demolition of this building has to be piecemeal, as it cannot be blown up. It would be a slow and expensive job.

It is a steel frame building with reinforced concrete floor slabs. The slabs have to be cut out in strips possibly by water jetting. The steel beams and columns would be cut away progressively and safely. All sections have to be lifted away by a crane and carted away in lorries. It is not a quick operation – it will take some considerable time while traffic management would be in place for safe passage of vehicles and pedestrians quite close to the site.

As I said before in The Dragon, the ground and the first floors could be repurposed for retail and other business use. The second floor could be made into apartments but because the building is too deep, it would help if the roof is cut away in the middle to let in light and spacious apartments on either side of the ‘atrium’ could be designed.

A couple of storeys on top around the opening/atrium in the centre could be built for apartments of various sizes with setbacks to form private terraces.

It is up to the developer to do the maths but I cannot help guessing that the alternative I have outlined here would make a reasonable return for the developer since the savings on demolition and time would be sufficient incentive for a serious rethink.

Creating a way along the riverbank would be possible by removing the wall panels and rebuilding walls or shop windows. The way leading to the theatre could be designed with seating for Cafes and decorative arches to suit the riverside environment of this old town.

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Demolition Is Not the Best Option for the Debenhams Building

  1. Valerie Charles Reply

    September 20, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    I quite agree, if there is nothing structurally wrong with the building why cannot it be put to good use? All is needed is a good clean-up and a good paint which would make it look much better.

    So far the ideas put forward in its place look very unappealing.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 22, 2022 at 7:55 pm

      Thank you for appreciating my approach to the development of this site.

      The developer will no doubt have to reappraise the cost of demolition in view of the increased cost of energy and the time it will take to demolish, remove debris and rebuild. The councils will need to appraise the consequences of prolonged traffic restrictions and its safe management for the duration of the work.

      To reuse and repurpose the building, the developer will require to secure clients for the ground and first floors and also design apartments on the second floor and extensions above. It is a bit more than a lick of paint but I believe my proposals are worthy of consideration by the developer. It conserves the asset and saves on carbon emission from the demolition and large-scale rebuilding activities.

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