Crucial days ahead for town's future

THE future prosperity and landscape of Bury St Edmunds is set to be changed forever over the next week with crucial discussions about a new cinema and the Cattle Market being made.

THE future prosperity and landscape of Bury St Edmunds is set to be changed forever over the next week with crucial discussions about a new cinema and the Cattle Market being made.

A David and Goliath battle for inclusion in Bury St Edmunds' multi-million pound Cattle Market redevelopment will enter its final round tonight, as a decision is made on which department store will anchor the project.

It is also thought a new deal to bring a nine-screen multiplex to the town will be rubber-stamped on Tuesday which could end years of controversy over the plan.

Although representatives from St Edmundsbury Borough Council have not confirmed the cinema rumour, leader John Griffiths stated the authority remains committed to making the scheme a reality.

"We are, as per our election manifesto, determined to do everything we can to bring a multiplex cinema to Bury St Edmunds," he said.

A spokesman for Cine-UK, with which the council may sign the agreement, also said the company was "obviously still keen" to open a multiplex in the town.

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Planning permission for the cinema and associated food outlets was granted in December 1998, but a bar included in the original scheme is now thought to have been dropped.

Cine-UK has to seek fresh planning approval from the council for the modified proposals, which could lead to a fresh legal challenge by campaigners who successfully blocked the proposal through a judicial review the first time around.

National high street store Debenhams, and Palmers which employs more than 400 people across East Anglia, have both bid for trading rights at the site.

Members of the council, which is masterminding the scheme, will consider the commercial and retail benefits of each store during tonight's meeting, which will be held behind closed doors.

"Both contenders have made excellent cases, and the Cattle Market Working Group will examine these thoroughly and scrupulously," said Andrew Varley, who will chair the discussion.

"The choice of a department store for the Cattle Market development is crucial to the success of the scheme and to the future prosperity of the borough.

The store wars debate proved a talking point in March, when the EADT revealed possible sweeteners worth millions of pounds, could be handed to Debenhams to tempt the chain back into the town.

Former councillor Brian Lockwood, who lost his seat in May's local elections along with retired businesswoman Joan Bonham, suggested the premium could be £6 million.

Site developers Centros Miller admitted it was common practice for both national and regional chains to be offered incentives but dismissed the figure as "rubbish."

The chosen trader will provide a flagship store of around 60,000 square feet, to attract shoppers to the redeveloped 12-acre site.

The final choice will be discussed at a cabinet meeting, before full council is asked to approve the selection next month.

Bruce Sturrock, managing director of Palmers, said yesterday he had been given no indication as to the meeting's possible outcome, and representatives from Debenhams were unavailable for comment.

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