House of Fraser '˜will not stay empty' landlord promises

The site owner of House of Fraser in Chichester has promised the store will not become a boarded up '˜eyesore' after the chain confirmed the closure last week.
House of Fraser, West Street, Chichester.House of Fraser, West Street, Chichester.
House of Fraser, West Street, Chichester.

Chichester is one of 31 locations set to lose a House of Fraser store in early 2019. More than 160 jobs are at risk.

Director of the Charities Property Fund, Harry Foster, said the fund, as landlord, would do ‘anything that will be positive for jobs and for Chichester’ in decisions about replacing the store.

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Mr Foster said the company would explore various options which he explained to the Observer.

He revealed the site could be split into several different retail units, possibly as a department store on a smaller footprint, with House of Fraser brands that may wish to keep a presence in the city.

Mr Foster also said a restaurant was a possibility given the prime location opposite the cathedral and the top floors could become residential accommodation.

He said the back of the property could even provide space for the Travelodge hotel to expand.

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He added: “I think there’s an awful lot that could be done and the last thing that we want is a boarded up site that will cause a bit of an eyesore in Chichester so we will look to explore anything really and we’d hope the local authority would be helpful in that.”

The House of Fraser site is registered as a retail unit and any change of use would require planning permission.

Mr Foster said that it was fortunate Chichester did not have ‘a surplus’ of retail but similar properties in other cities had benefitted from being turned into a mix of retail and other uses.

He said: “It’s [the site’s] only for retail at the moment. Bearing in mind the current retail environment, I’d be very surprised if any retailer will step up to take this on, it’s not impossible, but unlikely.

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“We would look to do a mixed use development there at some point but, obviously, depending on what the planning department will let us do.”

Savills manages the Charities Property Fund, which purchased the freehold of the building in 2017 for £13.4million.

Mr Foster, who has managed the fund for 11 years, said he had been surprised to hear Chichester’s store was closing, as House of Fraser had said it was a profitable location.

He said he would not rule out the chain returning to ask for the ground floor once debts were settled.

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“These things have a habit of coming back from the dead,” he said.

For in depth reports on the House of Fraser closure, see this week’s Observer out now.

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Have your say on what should be next for West Street HERE