D-Day looms for Cattle Market plan

By Liz HearnshawD-DAY is looming for the biggest development in Bury St Edmunds since the creation of its historic Abbey - but campaigners have admitted they still have concerns over the £80million scheme.

By Liz Hearnshaw

D-DAY is looming for the biggest development in Bury St Edmunds since the creation of its historic Abbey - but campaigners have admitted they still have concerns over the £80million scheme.

A council meeting will be held on Monday, at which planning permission for 35 shops, a Debenhams department store, a public building and homes on Bury St Edmunds' redundant Cattle Market site will be decided.

But preservation bodies said they still had reservations over the architecture, phasing and impact of the scheme, masterminded by St Edmundsbury Borough Council and developers Centros Miller.

Officials have carried out an ongoing consultation exercise since 2001, but Richard Ward, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, said little had changed as a result of the feedback given by interested groups.

He urged members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's planning committee to reject their officers' recommendation to approve the project on Monday.

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“We want the right scheme, but the bottom line is that this is not good enough,” he said.

“People in the town have been asked to comment on the scheme, but nothing has really happened since then. All we wanted to see is a positive dialogue.

“There is not a lot of evidence that a great number of comments have been taken into account, other than with the Market Thoroughfare link, and I think others would certainly share that view.”

Mr Ward also described the architecture used in the scheme as “repetitive and bland in some respects,” while urging the council to phase the development.

“We are really concerned about how this might impact on existing shops and the vitality of the town centre,” he added.

“What is the council going to do if businesses suddenly start suffering, closing and showing signs of a downturn?

“It seems to me there is no fallback position. It would be sensible and prudent to have policies in place to deal with that scenario.”

But Steve Bryson, spokesman for Centros Miller, described the scheme as a “fantastic” addition to the town that would draw visitors from far and wide.

“People will flock to the development when it is open and it will really compliment the existing town centre,” he said.

“This will be a good mix of the old and the new, and will have plenty of shops for people to visit and will relieve the pressure on retailers who currently cannot find space in the town.”

Mr Bryson said extensive consultation had been carried out, including an independently-run NOP telephone poll that showed 57% of people were in favour of the scheme.

“Thousands of people contributed to the consultation and Centros responded to their concerns and changed the scheme,” he added.

“The streets got wider, the buildings got lower and the public building changed in design completely.

“The architect has explained that within historic Bury, there is variety in the buildings and there is also conformity. This scheme also needs to be flexible in years to come, so if retailers need more or less space, it can be done.”

Mr Bryson said the phasing of the scheme had yet to be finalised, with much of the timetable depending on contractors.

He added an impact management committee had been set up on the council to minimise the effects of the development.


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