Debenhams site sold to 'student-focussed' developer

Debenhams in Orford Place, Norwich closed on May 15 2020 after more than 50 years in business

Debenhams in Orford Place, Norwich closed on May 15 2020 after more than 50 years in business - Credit: Maya Derrick

The whopping site of the former Debenhams department store has been snatched up by a developer which is expected to splash millions on the unit. 

The lights went out at the shop on the corner of Red Lion Street and Orford Place in the centre of Norwich in May 2020. 

The brand fell victim to the pandemic and collapsed into administration with the 100,000 sqft building gathering dust ever since. 

However, a source close to the project said the conditional sale of the site has now gone through. 

Who exactly the new owner is, and what they have planned, has not yet been revealed. 

However the source confirmed the site has been taken on by "a student-focussed developer". 

This developer is expected to spend millions of pounds developing the unit. 

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Insight into when plans may be submitted for the conversion of the unit, or when work may begin, have also not been made clear. 

The source continued: "Details around how much of it will be used for residential use, or how many units there may be, have not been confirmed and may be subject to change depending on the planning process.

"I expect several million pounds will be spent on developing this site which is fantastic news for the city centre."

The news was welcomed by Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Norwich-based Centre for Retail Research. 

Prof Joshua Bamfield, director at the centre of retail research. Pic: Archant

Prof Joshua Bamfield, director at the centre of retail research. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

He said: "Having residential properties in the city centre is not a new thing - in fact it's somewhat of a reversal back to the old way. 

"In the 1930s every shop in Norwich would have had the person who ran it living above it that was the norm.

"It's very good to have people living in the centre of a city because they go out to restaurants, to cinemas and to shops and spend their money.

"It also helps to keep cities safer and better kept."

He added he would be surprised if the entire unit was solely used for student digs. 

He said: "That bottom floor is prime retail space. I suspect a surveyor would be looking at it and thinking about how they can make the most of it. 

"Perhaps office and retail on the bottom floor and flats above it."