Bury St Edmunds: Shopping summit to be held

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds

POP-up shops and the creation of an ‘incubation corner’ in a street market are among the ideas that will be discussed at a summit on sustaining a vibrant retail environment in a west Suffolk town.

The meeting, between businesses and those in the public and voluntary sector, will also focus on the problems of filling empty units in the centre of Bury St Edmunds.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town centre business improvement group Bid4Bury, said it was important that everyone – including landlords of vacant shops – works together to find practical solutions.

He added: “I have heard a lot of good ideas already, some of them I was aware of, but others I wasn’t. But at this meeting we really need hear from the agents and the landlords and ask ‘Are there any other issues in the town that make the letting of these units more difficult and if there is, is there anything that we can do about that?’”

Mr Cordell, who said the vacancy rate in Bury is below the national average, said it is possible that some owners are locked into bank agreements that make rent reductions impossible.

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He added: “We need to get everyone round a table and see what the problems are because other towns are already doing this.

“We’re doing pretty well, but we shouldn’t be complacent. There’s always things we can do better. We should not sit on our laurels and think we’ve cracked this.”

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Green Suffolk County Councillor Mark Ereira, who has organised the Our Place meeting, said he hoped to see a large turnout of people who “really want to do something”.

He added: “Things aren’t bad in our town by a long chalk. It’s what else can we do as a big society. This is about getting together and doing something. Incubator shops, entrepreneurial activity – we need to be a lot more creative if we are going to keep that real independent retail feel to the town. It’s about ideas but actions too.”

Ideas that have been suggested so far, include using Bury as an incubating platform to seek out new independent traders and encourage young businesses.

Pop-up shops have also been recommended as one way to fill empty shops, with some also raising the possibility of suspending business rates and waste disposal charges.

The meeting is due to take place on March 20.

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