House of Fraser could be turned into apart­ments

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Tom Dare Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

BIRM­ING­HAM’S fa­mous Rack­hams depart­ment store could be turned into city liv­ing apart­ments.

The clo­sure of the House of Fraser store in Cor­po­ra­tion Street could help ease the hous­ing cri­sis.

The West Mid­lands Com­bined Au­thor­ity’s new hous­ing chief, Coun­cil­lor Mike Bird, said that store’s clo­sure could pave the way of city cen­tre ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Cllr Bird, who is also the coun­cil leader for Wal­sall, said many peo­ple were con­vert­ing re­dun­dant com­mer­cial or re­tail space into homes.

Dur­ing his time on the WMCA board, he will be re­spon­si­ble for work­ing to­ward a tar­get of build­ing 215,000 new houses across the West Mid­lands by 2031.

He be­lieves that the au­thor­ity should be look­ing at other meth­ods of con­struc­tion if it is to meet this tar­get.

“Ob­vi­ously hous­ing is al­ways top of every­body’s agenda at the mo­ment, but what we’ve got to see is 215,000 houses built in the West Mid­lands conur­ba­tion,” he said.

“And we’re try­ing to achieve that with­out in­trud­ing on the green belt, which of course is im­por­tant for every­body.

“That in it­self is a chal­lenge, but it’s one I’m not afraid of. What we’ve got to do is en­cour­age al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of con­struc­tion.

“I mean there are var­i­ous things now, there’s tim­ber­framed houses, there’s sys­tem-built houses, there’s houses built in fac­to­ries, and as a re­sult maybe we’ve got to move away from the tra­di­tional brick and con­crete base prop­erty that we’re used to see­ing. “You can build them with speed, you can build them with ac­cu­racy, you can build them on the back of a lorry, putting them to­gether, and at the end you can have two semi-de­tached prop­er­ties af­ter a few days. He added: “I think the other thing we’ve got to look at, you look at the re­cent very sad an­nounce­ment that House of Fraser will be clos­ing in Birm­ing­ham. And that in it­self could present an op­por­tu­nity, rather than a threat.

“I mean, if you look around the coun­try many peo­ple are now us­ing re­dun­dant com­mer­cial or re­tail space and con­vert­ing that into homes. That’s some­thing that I shall be look­ing at.”

Cred­i­tors last week agreed a com­pany vol­un­tary ar­range­ment (CVA) with House of Fraser which will see a to­tal of 31 out­lets shut and the loss of 2,000 jobs at its stores and a fur­ther 4,000 across brands and con­ces­sions.

There will also be rent re­duc­tions on a fur­ther ten shops that it plans to keep. Among the list of other West Mid­lands stores set to close is Wolver­hamp­ton’s fa­mous Beat­ties store and House of Fraser in Telford, Shrews­bury and Worces­ter.

Birm­ing­ham’s House of Fraser, in Cor­po­ra­tion Street, is due to shut in early 2019 as will the other 30 iden­ti­fied for clo­sure.

This lat­est devel­op­ment con­firms the an­nounce­ment made ear­lier this month by House of Fraser that it was seek­ing a new deal with cred­i­tors which would al­low the com­pany to re­fi­nance and com­plete a buy­out deal with Chi­nese suitor C.Ban­ner.

House of Fraser se­cured the required back­ing of at least 75 per cent of its cred­i­tors for the CVA to be ap­proved.

New par­ent com­pany C.Ban­ner, which also owns toy store chain Ham­leys, is buy­ing a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser and in­ject­ing £70 mil­lion in new cap­i­tal into the busi­ness.

Land­lords have pre­vi­ously hit out at the CVA, com­plain­ing they are be­ing forced to stom­ach a fi­nan­cial hit at the same time as House of Fraser en­joys new in­vest­ment.

House of Fraser and Beat­ties stores iden­ti­fied for clo­sure are, in full, Al­trin­cham, Ayles­bury, Birken­head, Birm­ing­ham, Bournemouth, Cam­ber­ley, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chich­ester, Cirences­ter, Cwm­bran, Dar­ling­ton, Don­caster, Ed­in­burgh Frasers, Ep­som, Grimsby, High Wy­combe, Hull, Leamington Spa, Lin­coln, London Ox­ford Street, London King Wil­liam Street, Mid­dles­brough, Mil­ton Keynes, Ply­mouth, Shrews­bury, Skip­ton, Swindon, Telford, Wolver­hamp­ton and Worces­ter.

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The doomed House of Fraser store in Birm­ing­ham city cen­tre and, be­low, Coun­cil­lor Mike Bird

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