Anger over car park costs rise

TAXPAYERS will have to fork out £700,000 on top of the £4.2 million of public money already earmarked for new town centre parking at the heart of a landmark development project, it has emerged.

TAXPAYERS will have to fork out £700,000 on top of the £4.2 million of public money already earmarked for new town centre parking at the heart of a landmark development project, it has emerged.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council yesterday defended the extra costs involved in building an underground and ground level car park at the Cattle Market site in Bury St Edmunds, which was originally expected to cost £4.2 million.

That figure, set in 2003/2004, was meant to cover the costs of breaking out the former deadstock market and turning it into a car parking area.

The works will see 853 parking spaces plus an extra 200 underground car slots compared with the current 800 spaces on the Cattle Market car park, 370 spaces in Prospect Row and the 270 spaces in the Parkway surface car park.

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But the Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Group has now agreed to stump up an extra £700,000 to cover the rise in costs.

The cash will come from the wealthy council's car parking reserves and revenue budgets.

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The hike in costs has sparked concerns amongst some council members, who yesterday claimed the authority was at risk of paying more and getting less.

John Griffiths, leader of the council, said the reason the costs had increased were inflation and the fact that additional work would need to be carried out.

He said: “Obviously we are very keen to make sure we get the parking situation in Bury right and this is just a part of that process and we are constantly looking at traffic flows to manage that.

“Like an awful lot of other things we are trying to get it right and the cause of the cost of the increase is a combination of inflation and the fact that we now have more detail. The main point is to make sure we get it right.”

But working group member Derek Redhead yesterday voiced his concerns about the rising costs of the parking element of the scheme.

The Independent council member said: “There are a few of us who are not entirely satisfied and two or three of us who have expressed our concerns.

“At the moment it looks like we are paying more and getting less. I don't think it meets our original aspirations.

“If you are going to increase shopping footprint by about 30 per cent, to reduce the amount of central parking at the same time is ludicrous.

“I don't believe there is adequate central parking. You need the parking where the people will be.”

Meanwhile, new pictures showing how the finished Cattle Market site will look have been shown to more than 5,000 motorists and passers-by in the Cattle Market area.

But town watchdog group the Bury Society has raised concerns about the timber-sided retail units, which form a major part of the Cattle Market redevelopment.

Sarah Green, vice chairman, said: “There's a very mixed view. Our concern is about the extensive use of timber.

“A lot of people would like to see more traditional looking buildings to link in with the old town better. “Quite a few of our members would prefer that. We are concerned as to how these timbers will look in the future. They could end up looking a bit bland.”

But Mr Griffiths said the designs had not been set in stone adding: “We are looking at this very closely and everything is constantly changing.”

Providing 265,000sq ft of new shopping anchored by an 85,000sq ft Debenhams department store, the £85 million development will create 35 shop units, 850 car parking spaces, more than 60 residential apartments and a multi-use public venue building.

Other retailers to have signed up include TopShop/TopMan, H&M, New Look, Wallis, Next, HMV and Waterstones.

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