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The new name for Shop Spec

Urban Edge Architecture completes Breckland Retail Park, Thetford

Urban Edge Architecture (UEA) is celebrating the completion of Breckland Retail Park in Norfolk, one of a series of successful out of town retail projects recently completed by the practice.

The new 69,100sq ft, £6.9 million development for client, Stapleford BRP Ltd, replaces a vacant brownfield site on one of the main routes into the lively town of Thetford, where Dad's Army was filmed, and has already attracted key tenants B&M, Home Bargains and Greggs.

Comprising five retail units in a single contemporary terrace, plus a stand alone café unit and 6,000sq ft of external garden centre space, the new Breckland Retail Park sits in an established retail and industrial site with residential areas close by, including the Kingsfleet development, where the construction of 5,000 homes has recently commenced. The retail terrace has been conceived to mask adjacent industrial buildings and enhances the character and appearance of the main London Road. The units are designed to provide an interesting frontage with projecting entrance and signage towers punctuating the length of the elevation.

UEA's in-house landscape team were involved in the project from the planning stage, taking on the development of the design of the public realm surrounding the new buildings and car park. Sensitive to restrictions related to the existing trees, the landscape design provides softening to the engineering solutions necessary to alleviate level differences around the perimeter of the site.

Ian Townsend at UEA explains: "UEA's aim was to deliver the best possible scheme for the client both in terms of maximizing developable area and also in terms of the quality of the design. The development regenerates a prominent brownfield site and creates an appropriate architectural response to a semi-rural setting. In addition to providing some 200 jobs, the development increases the retail choice in Thetford, making the town more attractive as a shopping destination and more sustainable by encouraging local people to shop in the town rather than travelling to Norwich or Bury St Edmunds."

The Breckland Retail Park site also provided the perfect setting for an initiative to address the looming skills crisis in the construction sector. UEA teamed up with Main Contractor,RTS Construction Group, to host an Open Day at the Retail Park for pupils from years 10 to 13 to provide an insight into the ‘built environment' and give added value to their studies beyond the classroom. Two teams each from Thetford Grammar and Thetford Academy completed the roles of Architect, Civil Engineer and Construction Manager in various activities designed to give them an insight into how a large-scale project comes to life from the initial concept to handover.

Recognised as an out of town retail specialist, Breckland Retail Park marks the latest success for UEA, coming in the wake of recent completions of a retail terrace extension at Victoria Retail Park in Beverley for New River Retail (Ramsey Developments Ltd). This is in addition to the completion of UEA's 60,800sq ft retail terrace at a vacant brownfield site on Canvey Island, for NewRiver REIT plc, as well as the £7 million c70,000sq ft new build retail park on Tower Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk, for Freshwater Group. The practice also recently completed a new £10.2m Next Home store on a vacant brownfield site in Plymouth, the third new store UEA has completed for Next, after successful projects at Edinburgh and Hanley.