Bury St Edmunds: A new team is on the cards to help enhance town centre

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds

A NEW team to help enhance a town centre is on the cards following a call for everyone to work together.

Councillor Mark Ereira organised Wednesday’s Our Place meeting in Bury Sy Edmunds which was attended by about 30 people including business representatives, councillors and those from the art world.

Discussions focused on how to improve the look of empty units in the town centre - particularly around the former Officers Club - including through pop-up shops and the use of posters and how to support independent traders.

Councillor David Nettleton said: “There are people with the expertise. They just need to be co-ordinated together under one leadership. It’s a good offer at the moment. It just needs to be improved.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town centre business improvement group Bid4Bury, said the “early shoots” of a ‘town team’ had come out of the meeting, adding Bid4Bury would be happy to lead it.

Creating town teams to successfully manage high streets was a key recommendation by retail guru Mary Portas in her review of town centres.

Mr Cordell said landlords and agents would need to be among those on the town team.

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“It’s imperative all key players are there trying to make action happen and not working just in their silos, but seeing it’s best for the town.”

Just under 10% of ground-floor business units in the town centre are empty, the meeting heard, and Mr Cordell said a vacancy rate of 5-8% was felt to be healthy to allow for new businesses to come in.

During the meeting Mr Cordell said: “It’s about these key units that are currently looking horrible and empty and identifying how we can get in there and improve them.”

Councillor Sara Mildmay-White said she wanted to see a general move to “really clean up the town,” specifically the area from Moyse’s Hall Museum to to the top of St John’s Street. A view also expressed at the meeting was the public could be “hypocritical” by saying they wanted independent shops, but would then shop on the internet or with chains.

Another meeting is due to take place on June 10 to keep the momentum going.

Mr Ereira said: “I want to see some action, some practical responses to come from this. What I don’t want actually is lots of excuses.”

Art dealer Stephen Walton has successfully launched a pop-up shop with Esme Veldhuizen in an initiative with Churchgate Accountants at the former Clement Joscelyne shop in Langton Place.