By Benedict O'ConnorAFTER more than 30 years in the pipeline, councillors took just over three hours to finally approve a £75million scheme that will transform an historic town.

By Benedict O'Connor

AFTER more than 30 years in the pipeline, councillors took just over three hours to finally approve a £75million scheme that will transform an historic town.

The long-mooted, controversial Bury St Edmunds Cattle Market development was endorsed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council's development control committee yesterday morning, in what has been touted as one of the most significant changes in the medieval town for more than 1,000 years.

Despite concerns about the loss of more than 270 car parking spaces, councillors voted by 15 votes to one to approve developers Centros Miller's plan to transform the former livestock auction site into a retail and leisure development.

Councillor Peter Stevens told the meeting: “This is one of the biggest decisions for Bury St Edmunds in recent years - the question is do we wish to develop or do we wish to die? We have the plan, we have the finance, we have the expertise.

“Let's have the will to make a decision for the future of the town and the borough. Let's have the will to make a good decision for the young people who have been screaming at us for ages to do something and I think with this application we have the chance to do something.”

Speaking after the meeting, Andrew Varley, chairman of the council's Cattle Market redevelopment working party, said he was “delighted” with the decision.

“This is an extremely important day for Bury St Edmunds and it is probably the most significant decision that has been made in the town for years,” he added.

“It's extremely good news and it is the result of a lot of hard work put in by a great number of people, and it is vital we continue to work closely with the developer to ensure we get exactly what the town requires.”

Jim Laker, managing director of Centros Miller, said it was pleased with the decision, but added there was still a lot of hard work to do.

“It's a very important decision, it's a big scheme and it will help Bury compete with towns like Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge. It's important that the town doesn't stand still because standing still is ultimately going backwards,” he said.

But the scheme's approval was not universally welcomed and the meeting was addressed by five people objecting to the scheme, one of whom, Bury St Edmunds resident Ivan Cook, branded the scheme a “white elephant”.

Richard Ward, of the Suffolk Preservation Society, added: “It's a bit of a disappointment and in a sense a missed opportunity.

“We had the chance to build something which could have been held up as an example to other towns of how to integrate new building into a traditional setting, but I don't think that's what we have got here.”

Paul Hopfensperger, chairman of Bury Town Council's Cattle Market redevelopment working party, urged members to ensure the infrastructure was in place to support the new development, and the committee agreed to add a planning condition demanding an urgent traffic and parking study.

Mr Hopfensperger said: “I am satisfied that the town council's concerns have been listened to. This is a major development and a major financial commitment which will set the agenda for change in Bury St Edmunds for the next 100 years.”

The £75m development comprises a public venue, a new shopping centre, a flag ship Debenhams department store and residential flats.

But because of the nature and scale of the development the council's decision requires Governement approval before work can begin.