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Fixtures and fittings from former Debenhams store are being put to new use by good causes

Mannequins that graced the iconic Debenhams store in Gloucester city centre are making a difference to good causes after being found new homes by the University of Gloucestershire as part of its commitment to sustainability.

Before its closure in May, hundreds of mannequins, along with mirrors, clothes rails and display cabinets, were literally part of the furniture for decades at the Debenhams store – now the future home of the University’s city centre campus.

Ahead of major refurbishment work, which will see the 1930 Art Deco building transformed into a modern learning space for students and staff, the University has made as many fixtures and fittings as possible from the former store available to charities to put to good use.

The University, which recently announced plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030, is also rehoming items from the store across its various academic schools to be utilised by students and staff.

Rachel Porter, Facilities Manager (Projects) at the University, said: “As we have such a strong commitment to sustainability, we wanted to see how many items could be reused or recycled.

“We were in contact with charities, local businesses, auctioneers and local village community groups to see what could be donated for good use. 

“We have managed to re-house a number of items such as mirrors, hanging rails, foot stools, mannequins, tables and curtains to these groups. 

“Some community groups have taken mannequins to use on Christmas trails, scarecrow trails, Halloween and even a school allotment club!”

Among the organisations that will be using items from the former Debenhams building is the Furniture Recycling Project (FRP) in Gloucester.

Dawn Melvin, chair of FRP, said: “We were thrilled to be given the opportunity to recycle former Debenhams fixtures and fittings. 

“It was a superb initiative by the university to invite charities to come and collect things that could be put to a new use. It’s so much better for them to find a new life rather than them go into landfill.

“It’s also rather wonderful that we were given the opportunity of keeping ‘alive’ the memory of Debenhams in our shops.”

A number of mannequins have been found important new roles in Swindon town centre, as they will be taking up their positions in the new Survivor shop when it opens later this year. 

Survivor is the fundraising shop of the Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, which assists victims and survivors of domestic abuse, including providing a free and confidential 24-hour support line, 365 days of the year.

Nicky Alberry, chair of the charity, said: “We were delighted to be offered these mannequins, along with a range of other fixtures and fittings, for our new shop in Swindon. 

“As we move to bigger premises, we are going to be able to raise even more funds to support those who need our services.

“Donations like this are crucial and we are very grateful to the University of Gloucestershire for making them available to us.”

The University announced in March that it had bought the Debenhams building – a major focal point for the community for 80 years – and intended to redevelop the existing fabric of the building to create a vibrant new campus in the heart of Gloucester.

The University’s plans took a major step forward after the Chancellor announced in last week’s Budget that Gloucester’s £20 million Levelling Up Fund Bid had been approved.

In June, the University announced that the tender to drive forward the design of the project has been won by ADP Architecture, a leading architect with extensive experience of the UK Higher Education sector.

Once completed, the new campus will be a modern centre for teaching, learning and community partnerships, playing a vital role in both the regeneration of the city centre and supporting the University’s ambitious plans for growth.

The development is part of the wider regeneration plans for the King’s Square area, which is being transformed by Gloucester City Council.

The Forum digital quarter development, being led by the city council in partnership with Reef Group, will create a mixed-use new build development of office, hotel and residential space close by.

The adjacent Kings House is being repurposed as a cultural hub, and new student accommodation was recently completed nearby at Blackfriars.