Architect savages town centre revamp

By Liz HearnshawA RETIRED architect has criticised an ambitious plan to redevelop a town with new shops, homes and entertainments, warning it would spell “catastrophe” for a currently thriving centre.

By Liz Hearnshaw

A RETIRED architect has criticised an ambitious plan to redevelop a town with new shops, homes and entertainments, warning it would spell “catastrophe” for a currently thriving centre.

Martin Whitworth fears proposals for the £75million facelift on the redundant Cattle Market site in Bury St Edmunds would lead to “disaster” and urged officials masterminding the scheme to bring a halt to the project.

Instead of the planned Debenhams department store, 35 new shops, 56 residential flats and multi-purpose public building, he felt a number of options and costings should be drawn up and presented to the pub;ic.

These could include ripping up Angel Hill to make way for underground car parking, demolishing St Edmundsbury Borough Council's offices and building a department store in its place and creating a new access road for traffic entering the town from the A14.

Mr Whitworth, from Bury St Edmunds, said a multi-storey car park could also be added on the site of the existing Suffolk County Council car park, behind Shire Hall, to help trade levels in the town centre.

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“The project as it stands would be a disaster for the town and I am not the only person who thinks that,” he claimed. “The councillors must now realise their errors and close this chapter if they are to avoid catastrophe.

“The Cattle Market site is a very valuable piece of land and we need to have options for that site which could be varied over the next 50 years - so we are working to an approximate plan which can be changed.”

Mr Whitworth felt the plan, worked on in partnership by the council and developers Centros Miller, concentrated too heavily on the 12-acre parcel of land currently used as a car park and paid “lip service” to the rest of the town.

“A team, led by an architect, should be selected, which would work for the council tax payers of Bury St Edmunds and nobody else,” he said.

“This team would set about having a strategic view of the town as a whole, including the Cattle Market, and produce a menu of options which are very roughly costed, so the people of the town can have a proper debate.”

Andrew Varley, chairman of the council's Cattle Market redevelopment working party, declined to comment on Mr Whitworth's suggestions.

But Steve Bryson, of Halogen, which carried out a consultation on behalf of Centros Miller, said the public's views had been taken into account and an amended plan, due for release in the coming weeks, would reflect that.

“Centros Miller is working in partnership with the borough council, and therefore does not have its own agenda,” he added.

“We have been in consultation since the autumn of 2001 on this scheme and it has never been closed - there has always been a way for people to make comments to the development team.

“We are on the brink of showing an amended scheme, which is in direct response to the issues raised in the latest consultations, and we hope that Mr Whitworth and others of his opinion will bear with us until they see the revised proposals.”

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