Costly poll could be ignored by council

A POLL costing taxpayers around £11,000 is to be held to gauge public opinion on a major multi-million pound town development - but its findings could be ignored.

A POLL costing taxpayers around £11,000 is to be held to gauge public opinion on a major multi-million pound town development - but its findings could be ignored.

Bury Town Council is now obliged to go forward with a parish poll into the town's proposed and highly criticised £75m Cattle Market redevelopment, after more than 10 members of the public demanded the vote goes ahead.

A delegation, lead by Bury St Edmunds Town councillor David Bradbury, called for the poll at a heated meeting over the development, which was attended by around 400 people at the town's Guildhall last night.

Although the vast majority of people at the meeting slammed the scheme for a number of different reasons, a large number felt a referendum or parish poll over the scheme would be a waste of money.

St Edmundbury Borough Council, which will make the final decision of the project, has no statutory duty to act on the result of such a vote.

Last night the Centros Miller-led redevelopment - that once complete will boast 35 new shops, a flagship Debenhams department store, a £10m multi-purpose public building, flats and a public square - came under a scathing attack by both town businessmen and residents.

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Many feared the redevelopment would destroy existing businesses in the town, while others argued the proposed public building would be a “waste of money” as it would simply duplicate the work of existing facilities in the town.

Others criticised the proposed design of the development as “cheap and tacky” and likened it to “toy town” or a “kiss-me-quick seaside resort.”

More concerns included plans to place parking restrictions at the new development, leaving shoppers no time to visit the remainder of the town and putting existing businesses at an unfair disadvantage.

Furious residents also claimed the developers were not listening to their fears and were attempting the get the scheme pushed through without proper consultation.

Alan Jary, who has run a gift shop in the town for 50 years, said: “We want to stop developers coming along and wiping out people like me.

“This new development will only make us a clone town. We need a good mix of quality shops and good parking.

“People come to this town for the specialised shops because we can offer something that bit different. Bury is individual and unique and we must preserve that.”

Town resident Melinda Nettleton said: “The design is cheap and tacky with seaside style kiss-me-quick architecture.

“The suggested three-hour parking limit is laughable. It would feed the new development, but people would not have time to go into the other streets. People would need to come equipped with a track suit and running shoes.”

Jim Greaves, of Hopkins Architects, who are designing the redevelopment on behalf of Centros Miller, said the public's opinion was being heeded and many amendments had been made to the scheme since a planning application was lodged at St Edmundsbury Borough Council last spring.

He said due to concerns raised by the public, links from the Cattle Market to the historic core of the town had been improved and streets leading to the new centre had been widened to make them more pedestrian friendly.

He added work is also planned to improve the look of St Andrew's Street, which had become a back side of loading bays and that all designs attempted to reflect the town's history.

The wording of the poll reads: “Is the basic design of the Cattle Market shopping centre as submitted by Centros Miller suitable for Bury St Edmunds, Yes/No.”

The town council will now work with St Edmundsbury to organise the poll, which will take place between 4pm and 9pm sometime within the next 25 working days.

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