Fakenham flagship facelift

Chris Hill A Fakenham department store which has furnished Norfolk's homes for more than a century is preparing a �500,000 facelift of its own to modernise its industrial fa�ade.

Chris Hill

A Fakenham department store which has furnished Norfolk's homes for more than a century is preparing a �500,000 facelift of its own to modernise its industrial fa�ade.

Aldiss was founded in the market town in 1892 and moved into its current home at a redundant printing works on Oxborough Lane in the 1980s.

But while the firm's sales and reputation have continued to grow, its flagship store has retained the dull, steel-clad factory shell of its former inhabitant.

So the company's directors have submitted plans to build a smart new frontage to improve the shop's appeal within the historic heart of Fakenham and allow it to keep pace with its modern competitors.

The plans submitted to North Norfolk District Council include a replacement brick storefront, with a slate roof, automatic doors and arched-top windows which will allow “lifestyle” window displays of seasonal stock for the first time.

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If approved, the development will become the final stage in a three-phase plan which has already seen a complete conversion to low-energy lighting and the start of work last week on an insulated roof cladding to reduce energy waste.

Managing director Paul Clifford said the expected ��m total investment in the improvements would reduce the firm's carbon footprint and enhance its standing within the town where it employs 103 people.

“The idea is to better reflect what is inside the store,” he said. “We are not a tin-shed retailer. By the time the company launched at this site it was equal with other retail buildings, but now there are more purpose-built retail parks where the look of the whole scheme is important to town planners and to the retailers themselves.

“We want to make it more appealing and give a sense to our customers and neighbours - even those who have never even been here before - what it is like inside.

“It will enhance our presence in the town as well. We are immensely proud to be here in Fakenham, and we are one of the larger employers in this part of the world.”

Architect Paul Hounslow, from Bury St Edmunds-based firm Kilngrove, said: “When you compare the view of the existing fa�ade with the view to the town, it does not do the town any favours. The principle was to come up with a scheme which enhanced the shop and the town. We want to convert it from an industrial steel-clad building into the prestigious store that it is.”

If planning permission is granted, it is hoped the work could be completed by the end of this year. Contractors have already begun on the roof upgrades, which were planned in a way which would not disrupt the workings of the shop. Mr Clifford said the scaffolding could bring some “aesthetic disruption” and asked for his customers' understanding while the improvements were made.

The existing roof, the size of three football pitches, will be encapsulated within a new cladding with insulating material in the space between the layers. Mr Clifford said the environmental scheme would “virtually eradicate heat loss” from the building and render the roof maintenance-free for 25 years.

WJ Aldiss was established by William James Aldiss as a drapery shop in Norwich Street. The company has moved and expanded several times since, and now has 50,000 sq ft distribution centre on Norwich Road and a second outlet in Norwich.

Previous director Tim Aldiss has retired from the day-to-day management of the business, but as group chairman he played an active role in the development decisions for the site.