Arc public venue delayed

A HISTORIC town is to be given its first glimpse of a business plan into a multi-million pound public venue, it has been revealed.

Dave Gooderham

A HISTORIC town is to be given its first glimpse of a business plan into a multi-million pound public venue, it has been revealed.

Councillors in St Edmundsbury will next week debate the �16million multi-purpose performance centre on the site of the Arc retail development in Bury St Edmunds.

But art and culture lovers might have to wait more than a year before the venue is finally open to the public after the local authority suggested it would not be useable until next May's Bury Festival.

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Sarah Green, chairman of Bury Society, said the delay in building work had always been known to the watchdog but described it as “regrettable”.

She said: “We always understood that there was going to be a delay on the completion of the public venue, but we welcome the outline business plan to be revealed shortly.

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“That said, if this is not an amended plan, we do wonder why it wasn't released a lot earlier - it does seem to be coming in rather late.

“Obviously, an enormous amount of work needs to be done to make the venue a success but we want to see it up and running as soon as possible.”

The Arc opened to great fanfare earlier this month and has already exceeded many trading expectations with thousands flooding to the new centre.

But while many of the shops are full and supported by on-site apartments and an underground car park, the public venue is unlikely to be open for more than a year, a council spokesman confirmed.

But councillors on St Edmundsbury Borough Council's cabinet committee will be able to scrutinise the business plan for the centre when it meets next Wednesday.

Ms Green added: “We want the centre to be a success but we will have to wait and see. The society will be looking at the business plan very carefully and will discuss it at a future meeting.”

Last year, the EADT reported that the expected cost of the public venue had soared from �9.5million in 2003 to more than �16million.

Cost-saving measures discussed for the 500-seat centre are thought to have included using cheaper materials such as wood veneers rather than solid wood.

A council spokesman said a small group of interested parties would meet behind closed doors tomorrow night to discuss the business plan before it is made public to the cabinet committee on March 25.

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