The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

Debenhams – Staines

Nominated by: Public
Have C20 acted upon before? no
Region: South East
Dates from: 1956
Built for: Kennards
Architect: George Coles
Listed: No
Conservation Area: No

Debenhams, Staines

Credit: Ruth Sharville, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The former Debenhams building is the largest retail outlet in Staines and occupies a prominent position formed by the corner of High Street and Thames Street in Staines retail centre.  An anchor store in both retail terms and its physical presence, it was purpose-built to replace a collection of smaller buildings in 1956 under the Kennards brand (a Debenhams subsidiary) and was re-branded as Debenhams in 1973. Four storeys in height plus a basement, it has a neo-Georgian look. Its ground floor consists of almost continuous display windows with lengths of canopy above. Above the ground floor its elevations are largely brick, punctured by closely-spaced, metal framed windows. Half its longer Thames Street elevation is formed by a bow and this elevation has a strong horizontal appearance moderated by two-storey, stonework surrounds to four of the window bays. Two similar areas of stonework are present on the High Street elevation. The main entrance, with glazing surrounded by stone panels above, sits at the corner of the two elevations.

Once the largest department store presence on the UK high street, Debenhams experienced several financial crises not long before going into liquidation in December 2020. Struggling against online competition for a number of years, the pandemic proved to be the final blow. The Staines store did not reopen after the lockdown restrictions eased.

Currently vacant and unused. Identified in a section (ST4/019) of the drafted Spelthorne Local Plan consultation as suitable for ‘mixed commercial and residential use’ and ‘high density, high rise development.’ The local plan has not yet been adopted (more information here). There is a clear threat of demolition, rather than adaptation and reuse. A developer, Future High Street Living, acquired the site in October 2021 and has produced an indicative proposal for demolition and replacement with 226 flats in two 14 storey towers linked by a podium and some retail at ground level. Last update: November 2021.

Update: an application for planning permission for the “Demolition of the former Debenhams Store and redevelopment of site to provide 226 dwellings (Use Class C3) and commercial units (Use Class E)” has now been submitted to Spelthorne Borough Council under 21/01772/FUL. The C20 Society has objected (December 2021).

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