PureGym Ltd applies for permission to take up the empty unit at Haverhill Retail Park
An 'extremely difficult' time for retail has contributed towards a gym operator putting in a planning application for the last remaining unit at Haverhill Retail Park - which has stood empty for almost two years.
The Ehringshausen Way park took its first tenant in September 2017, when Pets at Home moved in, and since then Home Bargains and Lidl have also opened stores there.
Now, PureGym Ltd has applied for a change of use on the final building from an A1 (retail) to a D2 (gymnasium), with some minor external alterations, and if their bid is approved, it will operate a 24-hours a day gym from the site.
The final unit has planning permission for A1 use, but is restricted to the sale of bulky goods, such as furniture, building and DIY, carpets, floor coverings, household furnishings, caravans and bicycles.
The limits were put in place by St Edmundsbury Council when planning permission was granted for the retail park in 2016 to protect the High Street and prevent damaging out-of-town competition.
Colin Brown, director of portfolio development at the Howard Group, which created the retail park, said it has been difficult to attract retailers to occupy the empty unit.
He said: "The retail market right across the spectrum, from the high street to out-of-town retail parks is extremely difficult out there.
"There is a growing number of units available to a dwindling number of occupiers so we are under pressure to find creative solutions to ensuring that we can get the buildings occupied and employing people.
"We've had a number of occupiers come forward.
"We had another gym occupier come very close last year but the consent for that building is more of a bulky goods consent, it's not a pure A1 consent, so we can't let it out to a normal high street occupier and that's a deliberate policy of the local authority.
"The D2 leisure use, we think, is a really good alternative use for the unit."