Cash partners needed for leisure venue

A £10m entertainment and leisure venue may still be included in the development of the former Bury St Edmunds cattle market if partnership funding can be found.

A £10m entertainment and leisure venue may still be included in the development of the former Bury St Edmunds cattle market if partnership funding can be found.

It had been feared that members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's cattle market redevelopment working party would throw out the proposals for a multi-use public building included in the plans because of financial implications.

But last night the Conservative dominated group voted to carry out more work to attract alternative and partnership funding to help complete the project.

The group also decided it should go for the cheapest of three options on what type of entertainment venue it should recommend for approval.

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It dismissed proposals for a major venue and studio, for programmed musical and live entertainment events and a second proposal for a similar establishment, but excluding the studio.

Instead it opted for a venue that would be used on a hire basis only, which it is estimated, would demand a net running cost of around £170,000 a year.

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It is envisaged that the state-of-the-art venue, which could have a seating capacity of up to 500 and standing for another 1,000, would hold around 106 arts events and 83 commercial events a year, for an audience of 31,000

people a year.

Chairman of the committee Andrew Varley said: "At the moment we have to look at something that is realistic and I think this option is it. We can always expand to full-scale programming at a later date. We have a duty to minimise the burden on the tax payer, This will be a major step forward."

The proposed redevelopment of Bury St Edmunds cattle market site, which includes shops, restaurants and housing, has already been agreed by councillors and consultation is now going through the final stages before the scheme is discussed by the authority's cabinet committee later this year.

One of the main bones of contention between members of the working group steering the scheme has been the inclusion of a new multi-million pound entertainment venue.

In 2002 the then Labour controlled working party agreed a new £9.5million entertainment venue with a seating capacity for 500 and public areas central to the redevelopment scheme. It also said the building should accommodate a one-stop shop, tourist information point, box office and appropriate commercial outlets.

During last night's meeting architect Jim Greaves explained how the public building may be incorporated into the cattle market plans.

He said the entertainment auditorium would be included into a modern covered, glass-fronted complex, which would include a public square, and possibly underground parking. He added the complex could house art studios, offices, food outlets and even radio stations.

He added: "This scheme without a public building doesn't have a heart. It is absolutely vital that some kind of public entertainment venue is included in the cattle market redevelopment."

Although precise plans for the cattle market are still to be drawn up, it is believed the development will be designed to reflect the historic layout and buildings already in Bury town centre.

It has already been recommended to allow Debenham's to build an 85,000 square foot flagship store to become the centrepiece of the retail side of the scheme, which will take up the largest portion of the 12-acre site.

The cattle market scheme will next be discussed at a working party meeting in August so that members can make a recommendation for consideration by council cabinet in September 2003.

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