Native Land has submitted a planning application for the 310,000-sq-ft redevelopment of the 1.7-acre former Debenhams department store site in Guildford, to create 215 homes, 21,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, and almost an acre of newly created riverside public realm.

The development, to be known as St Mary’s Wharf, is the first project in Native Land’s recently-announced strategy to acquire opportunities to reposition former retail assets in fundamentally strong UK towns and cities.

St Mary’s Wharf will feature two new buildings of eight and nine storeys respectively, designed by architects Squire & Partners to respect the surrounding heritage of the area. It will also unlock publicly accessible spaces including a new civic square, pocket park and a riverside walk giving access from the High Street to the River Wey for the first time in 50 years.

The development will offer a range of apartments, from studios to one, two and three-bedroom homes.

The Debenhams building provides limited and poor public realm, and was constructed when environmental standards were substantially lower than demanded today; as such a conversion of the existing building to provide residential accommodation would require substantial alterations to meet standards on light and space. Native Land’s proposal will provide new fossil-fuel free buildings with zero emissions in operation, and a biodiverse environment for the long term.

Robert Harris, managing director acquisitions at Native Land said: “Our proposals for St Mary’s Wharf reposition a redundant retail asset into a housing-led mixed-use destination that will open up Guildford’s riverside and bring new life to the town centre. It exemplifies our strategy to create high-quality, sustainable developments which reimagine high street locations in the face of continued challenges from online retail.”

Native Land is actively seeking further town centre opportunities as part of its acquisition strategy.

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