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Burrington Estates: 'We want to bring Grimshaw's Ship back to life'

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Chairman and founder of Burrington Estates Mark Edworthy tells the AJ about his plans for the Grimshaw-designed former Western News HQ in Plymouth

What does Burrington Estates do?
We are a developer which focuses on high-end luxury and student residential schemes alongside commercial development. We specialise in regeneration.

How did the purchase of the Grimshaw-designed Ship building in Plymouth come about?
We were looking for a building and we heard about the plans to demolish it on the local radio. About eight weeks ago we went to have a look at it and fell in love with the building. It is perfect for what we want to do because it is half office and half production facilities.

Are you planning to make any changes to the building?
We won’t be changing it externally but there might be a few internal layout changes needed.

What impact will it have on your plans if it gets listed?
We are relaxed about it. There is a benefit with the rates if it gets listed. Our plans for the building will not be affected by any listing decision as the listing is mainly related to Ship’s external appearance and shape and we don’t plan to change that.

The previous owner said the building could not be adapted for a new use, were they wrong?
It is a difficult building. It is very bespoke inside. They were probably right in saying it couldn’t be adapted for a new use if they were thinking about it becoming a hotel or other type of building. It would be uneconomic to drastically remodel it. But for office and commercial space, which is what we plan to use the building for, it is perfect.

What other key projects are you working on?
We have been working on converting a Georgian hospital in Exeter to students housing and high-end apartments. We’re also establishing a new business park on the site of Hovis’ former distribution depot in Plymouth, and we’re working on the conversion off an old library in Exeter into 34 student flats. We are big fans of older architecture and want to preserve it while creating beautiful spaces.

What architects are you working with?
We work with an established list of architects in Exeter and the surrounding area including Lacey Hickie and Caley, Expedite and Grange Architects, but we would always look at other architects if they were to approach us.

What are your plans for the future?
We are meeting with Nicholas Grimshaw to talk to him about the Ship building. We want to bring the building back to life and give it a new lease of life and are really looking forward to hearing what he has to say about it.  We’d love for him to be involved.

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