Cattle Market - watchdog attacked

A COUNCILLOR has slated development watchdogs critical of a multi-million pound retail and leisure redevelopment for attempting to "pickle their town in formaldehyde.

A COUNCILLOR has slated development watchdogs critical of a multi-million pound retail and leisure redevelopment for attempting to "pickle their town in formaldehyde."

Responding to concerns about car parking and a proposed entertainment venue raised by the Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS), Andrew Varley urged doubters to grasp the "unique opportunity" offered by the Cattle Market redevelopment in Bury St Edmunds.

Mr Varley, deputy leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said public consultations had proved both a need and wish for extra facilities within the town, while linkages between the existing historic core and the new site will be carefully considered to ensure both areas survive.

"Preserving everything which makes Bury St Edmunds special does not mean pickling the town in formaldehyde," said Mr Varley, chairman of the council's Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party.

"It means taking this unique opportunity of ensuring the whole borough's prosperity and enhancing its quality of life. Mr Pillar's views are ill-informed and contrary to the Suffolk Preservation Society's response to the consultation on the draft of planning guidance for the Cattle Market site.

"We have throughout the process employed leading experts in their relevant fields to advise us on issues such as parking and the impact on shopping in the existing town centre.

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"It has been a central purpose of the whole scheme that it should add to the existing historic town. This includes studying the exciting possibilities for the links between the two. Not all of these can be made public yet because of sensitive commercial information."

Dan Pillar, chairman of the St Edmundsbury District committee of the SPS, said the group's concerns included the loss of parking spaces and the proposed entertainment venue.

"The £16million cost of this building is absolutely astonishing," he said.

"A better alternative would be to restore the Corn Exchange as a concert hall and use the rest of the money saved on underground car parking.

"I think the public building is an architect's dream. We do not believe such a building would attract enough usage. The council says the facility will be used by local groups who can attract 300 or more people to their gigs – but how many of these are there in Suffolk?

"The key to the prosperity of a market town is generous and convenient parking in the centre of the retail area. We have the ideal opportunity on the Cattle Market, which is suited to underground parking.

"The council has rigidly refused to consider any interests other than those of the developer – it seems the authority is being led by the nose."

Mr Pillar said around £9 every year would be added to all band D council tax bills as a result of the investment in the public building, but Mr Varley said this cost would be offset by changes to the authority's existing funding priorities.

He added that the possibility of converting the Corn Exchange, soon to be home to the town's Art Gallery, into a public building had been examined, but the suggestion proved impossible following a report from consultants.

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