Sudbury: Cinema key to boosting town’s evening economy
15:10 26 May 2014
While often lively and thriving by day, Sudbury town centre turns into “a graveyard” by night, it has been claimed.
According to Sudbury Society chairman Peter Thorogood, the number of pubs, clubs and restaurants that have closed in recent years has left the town’s evening economy in dire need of a “shot in the arm”.
But although members of a steering group set up to oversee future development agree it could benefit from a new cinema complex with cafes and bars, they have warned that any such scheme has to be “commercially viable”.
A recently-appointed town centre manager has been tasked with boosting the town’s offerings after dark.
At one time, Sudbury boasted two town centre cinemas – the County Picture Palace in King Street and the Gainsborough cinema in East Street. Films were also shown in a building behind the White Horse pub. There was also a choice of around 17 pubs.
Mr Thorogood said: “Sudbury has lost a vast number of its pubs and the town is like a graveyard in the evenings. The Market Hill area has wonderful historic buildings like St Peter’s Church, the old Corn Exchange and the Town Hall, but everything is closed at night. There are no bars or clubs in that spot and there really isn’t anything to do.
“What we need is a cinema like they have in Bury St Edmunds, which has a lively night time economy.
“It’s currently like Sudbury closes at 10 o’clock and it’s a case of ‘will the last person out turn the lights off’.”
Babergh District Council is trying to find a cinema operator to invest in a scheme for the Hamilton Road area, which could include a three-screen film theatre alongside cafes and bars.
Chamber of commerce chairman and Sudbury Steering Group member, Chris Storey, agreed that while the town’s historic core was very attractive to walk around, it had little to offer the younger generation in terms of night-time entertainment.
He said: “There is a need for additional facilities such as a cinema to help the town centre and provide an extra draw, but commercial reality has to be at the core of any development. It has to be considered because there is no big pot of money to fund schemes that aren’t commercially viable.”
Simon Barrett, Babergh’s lead member of economic development, believes the criticism of Sudbury by night is unfair. He said: “For a market town of its size, I think there’s enough going on if you look for it.
“We do need a cinema for the younger people and we are working to find a cinema operator. It’s a question of being realistic about what we can achieve at the moment.”
Town centre manager Jane Hatton is working with the town council on a bid to acquire Purple Flag status, which could boost the town’s night-time economy. The accreditation recognises good management of town centres at night,.
Mrs Hatton said: “The future of the night-time economy does hinge on us getting a cinema complex which would encourage other things to follow. But in the meantime, there are things going on in Sudbury in the evenings. We still have pubs and restaurants and there are often events at St Peter’s – we just need to make sure people know about them.”