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Friars Street reopens in Sudbury nearly 18 months after devastating fire

PUBLISHED: 17:10 21 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:17 21 February 2017

Shopkeepers in Friars Street celebrate the road's reopening: Graham Riseley from Art and Framing, Gill Blake from Kestrel Bookshop, Hetty Lyttelton from Zoffany Exchange, Jo Harrington from the Jewellery Studio and Alan Devereux from A and G Newsagents
. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Shopkeepers in Friars Street celebrate the road's reopening: Graham Riseley from Art and Framing, Gill Blake from Kestrel Bookshop, Hetty Lyttelton from Zoffany Exchange, Jo Harrington from the Jewellery Studio and Alan Devereux from A and G Newsagents . Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Traders have hailed the “wonderful” news that Sudbury’s Friars Street has reopened to traffic nearly 18 months after it was closed following the huge town centre fire.

The huge fire in September 2015. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT The huge fire in September 2015. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The blaze in September 2015 left 20 people homeless and destroyed heritage buildings after an electrical fault in the Celebrities Nails premises.
Since then the road has been closed to traffic while debris from the former 19th-century Goldsmith’s Mansion was cleared and a huge clean-up operation began. The road reopened on Monday afternoon.

“It’s wonderful and we’re delighted that the town can be seen to be opened up fully and the views are actually quite good,” said Chris Storey, from Sudbury’s chamber of commerce.

Traders along Friars Street have faced a sharp decline in footfall over the past few months as many shoppers have veered away from the road while the works have been ongoing, despite the businesses remaining open.

“It’s opened the street scene up and the whole of that end of town,” Mr Storey said, “it’s great news for the town.”

He added: “The town is very positive about its future at the moment and we want to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.”

Hetty Lyttelton is the owner of Zoffany Exchange, one of the Friars Street businesses to have seen a downturn over the past year.

“It’s a relief and wonderful it’s open,” she said. “I’m thrilled.

“Even if it was a little barrier it put people off.”

Friars Street in Sudbury. Picture: SEANA HUGHES Friars Street in Sudbury. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Her neighbour at Kestrel Bookshop, Gill Blake, said: “Hopefully it will increase business for us. It’s been quite a long road but we’ve finally got there.”

There is now a large gap in the street where the mansion once stood, which was home to the town’s Oxfam shop, several flats as well as the nail bar where the blaze began.

An application has recently been approved by Babergh District Council for a new building on the empty site with a business unit and six flats. The new build will have a similar façade to the original listed building, but with modern architectural detailing elsewhere.

A poll by the East Anglian Daily Times discovered more readers supported a “traditional-looking” replacement building for the site, rather than a modern one.

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