Bury St Edmunds: Shops face drop in footfall following fire in the Traverse

THE FIRE may be out at a historic building in Bury St Edmunds town centre, but some traders are still feeling the damaging effects on their businesses.

The centre of the Traverse is still blocked following the devastating blaze at Cupola House, home to Strada restaurant, on June 16. A crane with a cage is being used to dismantle the Grade-I Listed building and a metal fence is around this area.

But while looking like a no-go zone, only three shops remain closed aside from Strada: Sahara, Bella Lingerie and Jessops. Many of the shops which are open are suffering from a drop in footfall, with Kate Palliser, owner of shoe shop Scarlet, saying footfall to her shop had dropped by 80-90%. She said: “We are all grouping together. We are trying to encourage people to come back to this area. There’s a negative vibe. There’s a black cloud over this part of the town metaphorically and physically. It’s had a massive impact on our footfall. We used to get a lot of passing trade.”

Trevor Barrett, who owns Butterworth’s health food shop with wife Margaret, said their trade had probably dropped by about a third. He said: “The new customers become the regular customers of the future. Basically we are existing on our regular customer base which is excellent, but long-term? And what is long-term? It’s going to take years for that to be rebuilt.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which is leading the recovery phase, said in the short-term the crane is due to be removed next week and wooden hoarding installed which will allow through access. She said: “Everybody is working in as focused a way as possible to get the Traverse opened up.”

But question marks remain over how long work will take to try and reinstate 17th Century Cupola House.

Regular meetings are continuing to be held with those affected by the incident. Ms Palliser said she hoped banners could be put up at the top and bottom of the Traverse to let people know it is open for business.