Bury St Edmunds: Bid4Bury welcomes Action for Market Towns survey results

BURY St Edmunds has been given a glowing report by residents, visitors and businesspeople in a “health check” study commissioned by the town centre improvement organisation Bid4Bury.

The research highlighted the importance of independent shops and the market to the town centre, as well aspects such as cleanliness, physical appearance and the prosperity of the town, which were all noticeably above the national average.

The study was carried out by Action for Market Towns, a national organisation based in Bury St Edmunds, which helps small towns with information and advice on best practice to face the challenges from bigger cities or out of town shopping, and was presented to Bid4Bury members at the group’s AGM.

The full report will be considered by the Bid4Bury board of directors and the areas that respondents highlighted as needing improvement, which included business rental values and car parking charges will be given consideration.

Bid4Bury chief executive Mark Cordell said: “I’m delighted that Action for Market Towns received such a positive response to their questioning, but of course there is still work to be done and this study also highlights some aspects that Bid4Bury will now take a closer look at.

“Among the areas I’d like to see improve still further are footfall figures and issues around car parking, which businesses and town centre users both highlighted.”

In many aspects of the report, Bury St Edmunds scored well above the average for town centres regionally and nationally. Significant findings of the research included:

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: : 82% of town centre users rated the variety of shops as either good or very good. The figure for National Large Towns is 65% and East of England Small Towns 56%.

: : The number of market traders, 61, is higher than the national figure of 47 and the regional figure of 35.

: : 78% of the businesses questioned considered the prosperity of the town to be a positive aspect of operating there, markedly higher than the national average of 44%.

: : The town’s range of leisure and cultural activities was perceived to be good or very good by 84% of users – nearly double the figure for the East of England (43%) and significantly higher than the national figure of 51%.

: : The physical appearance of Bury St Edmunds was rated as good or very good by 86% of town centre users, which is 19% higher than the regional figure and 9% higher than the national figure.

The author of the Action for Market Towns report, Mike King, said: “Given the difficult economic conditions that so many towns are coping with at the moment it was good to find so much that is positive about Bury St Edmunds.

“It compares very favourably with other similar sized towns from across the country that have undertaken the Benchmarking exercise in the last 18 months.

“ I hope that this practical research, with useable findings, will enable Bid4Bury to build on the successes highlighted and work with businesses to make progress in the areas that those surveyed rated less highly or felt were needed.”

Mr Cordell added: “It’s very pleasing to see how well Bury St Edmunds compares with other towns in the East of England because we want people to come here and make the most of the town. The study showed that 32% of respondents lived more than a half hour drive away, which is nearly 10% higher than the national average.

“Bid4Bury is working hard to attract people from near and far into the town and this is why we are promoting the excellent value of all day parking in the town for only �2.20, to encourage people to visit us and stay for longer.”