Bury St Edmunds: ‘Tourist information service is just not working’
06:00 30 June 2014
A group which cares about Bury St Edmunds is set to meet with the borough council to present a list of problems they say need to be addressed about the town’s “struggling” tourist information service.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council has shut the award-winning Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in Angel Hill, saving £70,000 a year, and replaced it with “tourist information hubs”.
But a month on from the closure, Bury Society chairman Karen Hurden said the group is set to meet with the borough council to discuss a raft of problems with the current service, which society member and local history guide Martyn Taylor has drawn up.
Independent councillor David Nettleton and Green councillor Julia Wakelam both said a review was necessary.
The decision to close the TIC itself was controversial at the time, with some accusing the council of a lack of consultation and for handling the announcement badly.
The Bury Society’s latest comments come as the town has seen a double-figure increase in the past year in people booking hotels, holiday lets and visiting attractions.
Mrs Hurden said: “Bury is a town worthy of a far better tourist information service than it’s currently struggling with. I think it’s obviously struggling.
“There is a problem at the Apex [the town’s main tourist information point]. Everybody knows it isn’t working properly.
“It’s also actually in the wrong position. People have to walk a long way to get to it and when people get there there’s an inadequate service.
“The cathedral [in Angel Hill] are stepping into the breach and they have been very helpful over this, but there are supposed to be other hubs but we are not quite sure what is happening about those.”
She said there were not enough leaflets available at the Apex music and entertainment venue.
Councillor Sarah Stamp, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for operational tourism, said the plans for a network of manned hubs at key points across the town was “coming together well”.
She added: “Our tourist information team moved into the Apex, our flagship entertainment venue, on June 1 and have been busy establishing themselves and helping customers as usual.
“I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to announce that the cathedral, one of Bury St Edmunds’ biggest tourist attractions, is now working in partnership with us and is joining this new network of advice points.”
She said the tourist information service also had an increased online presence.
“We are looking forward to welcoming many visitors over the summer and we will have a better view after that as to how our new arrangements are providing visitors with the information they need,” she said.
Ms Wakelam, who is not fundamentally opposed to moving the service out of Angel Hill, said a review of the current service was needed, but the lack of signage and signposting [to the hubs] should be addressed now.
“I think what we have got at the moment is not delivering well enough and a lot of that is to do with it not being thought out in advance properly,” she said.
She said by having a network of hubs the service was “fragmented,” and could confuse visitors.
Mr Nettleton, who would like to see a review into the decision to close the TIC, said: “I think we should have it in one place. I would prefer Moyse’s Hall Museum [in the Buttermarket].
“I think with spreading it all over the place we are spreading the butter too thin really.”