Windsor House – apartment plans APPROVED

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Back in September 2018 we reported that Marks and Spencers had pulled out of the plan to move into the newly developed Windsor House.  As a result, the owners (Sorbon Estates/Shanly Homes) put in a planning application to convert what would have been warehouse space at the back in to 5 apartments.

On Thursday 17th Jan, the planning was approved. This is a pretty controversial decision, given the opposition from many including

  • Marlow Town Council who said they” find it barely credible that the allocated basement parking will be able to service the additional residential apartments”
  • Marlow Methodist Church, who had concerns of balconies overlooking and straight into their main hall.
  • Marlow Society
  • Several neighbours and other residents. A particularly comprehensive objection can be found here

We obtained a comment from Tamra Booth (MD of Sorbon Estates) below:

“Sorbon Estates had been in negotiations with M&S for over four years regarding this unit and were excited about moving M&S to this larger, prominent, gateway location. Following the announcement last year that M&S are closing over 100 stores by 2022, it became clear that the goalposts had changed. The abortive deal had nothing to do with access issues.

Local agents advised us that they have seen a greater demand for smaller units so in the interest of avoiding a prolonged vacancy, we applied for planning to reduce the size of the retail unit. This then freed up space at the rear which suited residential, hence the change of use at the back of the building. We are grateful to have received permission for these changes as it has brought a new batch of retailers to the table. The retailers we are talking to would complement the diverse retail mix in the town.

What is very evident is that there remains strong interest in the retail market in Marlow despite online pressures and retail concern. This enforces the importance of Sorbon Estates’ overriding objective for Marlow which is to always find tenants that are right for the long term.”

For background, our original article is reproduced below

Original article from September 2018:

First a quick reminder of the history

The image above is from 2014, when the original planning application went in – you can clearly see “M&S Simply Food” on official artist impressions – so the association with M&S was in place right from the start.

The finished building looked like an M&S shopfront!

When building work was completed, the panes of green glass that went in were certainly reminiscent of M&S, and not suited to a typical shop which would want clear panes to display clothing or other goods. We have also seen recent plans which clearly show the space as a “Retail Foodstore”, including an instore bakery etc.

Rumours of “last minute” issues

Soon after completion, we heard that the new tenant was close to signing the lease, but then everything went quiet. Rumours arose that there was an issue with the M&S Delivery lorries being unable to fit under the arch (see below)! There was no official word, but everything went quiet at the site.

Newly revealed plans to convert warehouse space to flats!

The owners have now submitted new plans to alter part of the building.  As it stands, behind the retail shop is a 2 story warehouse, with goods lift, staff room etc. The good inward door can be seen in the distance under the arch in the above photo.

The NEW proposals are to change this warehouse areas to residential use, and create six flats with the addition of windows, doors and front and rear balconies…

The gist of the reasons cited for the change, in the planning application include:

  • The building was built  assuming a single retail tenant.
  •  The retail landscape has changed over the last three years and the demand is now for a smaller unit(s).
  • “There has already been interest from several parties in the site if it were to
    become a smaller unit”
  • Oh, and also – it would assist with “much needed housing supply” in the town centre 

This would seem to be the nail in the coffin for Marks and Spencers, assuming they would not be interested in a smaller unit with no warehouse space as such? We will keep you posted of the outcome of the Planning Application!

Article author: Paul Merchant

About the author: Founded in its original version back in 2000 - yes the internet DID exist back then. Brought up in Marlow, went to school here, now has children at the same schools. Quite clearly loves all things Marlow - hence spending over 2 decades doing this!

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