Developers reveal shop takeover bids

DEVELOPERS behind a long awaited redevelopment project in a historic town last night revealed they are planning a multi-million pound takeover of two of the town's most popular shops.

DEVELOPERS behind a long awaited redevelopment project in a historic town last night revealed they are planning a multi-million pound takeover of two of the town's most popular shops.

It is hoped the takeover bid, in Bury St Edmunds, will quell fears that inadequate links between the Cattle Market complex and the town centre would spell the end of the town's many independent businesses.

Speaking last night , John Laker, managing director of developers Centros Miller, confirmed talks had now begun with the owners of Stead and Simpson and Top Shop in their bid to widen the Market Thoroughfare, providing a walkway to the new development on the 12-acre site.

Although financial details are still sketchy, Mr Laker confirmed the takeover would push costs past the initial project budget of £75 million, but stressed that Centros Miller would meet the extra financial demands.


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He said: "We know the link was one of the major concerns to come out of recent consultation.

"We have responded to these concerns and it has always been a high priority. I still have no doubts there will be interaction between the Cattle Market and the town centre.

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"People shouldn't be afraid of the historical links between a town and a new complex. We have made changes and hopefully these will satisfy the concerns."

Of the takeover bid, Mr Laker said approaches had been made to both shops, and revealed both would be offered places in the new development.

"We have made approaches to the owners who obviously had no plans to sell," he explained. "But that is something we are now looking at and we will see how it goes.

"If they don't sell, the council does have planning powers to purchase properties but it is a bit early to pre-empt the process."

The fresh plans would have to be approved by St Edmundsbury Borough Council planners who last month gave the full scheme the go-ahead.

Sheila Wormleighton, vice-chairman of the Cattle Market Working Party, said: "I think the real significant thing is the fact that changes have been made to the link.

"Since the beginning, there has always been concern about the link and it has always been seen as crucial."

Architectural watchdogs the Bury Society welcomed the plans - but maintained more could be done to improve the links between the two sites.

Committee member Susan Solohub said: "We are in favour of the premises being purchased and the Thoroughfare being opened up to make the link as appealing as possible.

"At the moment, it is very narrow and unimpressive and doesn't provide any link. But this is not the sole answer to our concerns.

"We also want improved links in Brentgovel Street and Woolhall Street where there should be more pedestrian domination, as there is in Angel Hill."

Developers also met concerns about the future of independent stores in the town - claiming the project would boost the entire local economy.

Mr Laker said: "There will inevitably be some relocation - it is a fact of life. But if a retailer has to sell, it is because they cannot retain its position in the market place.

"You usually find trade actually picks up because more people shop in the town and then go to other parts of the town."

Following consultation last month, the developers yesterday revealed the five key areas of concern among residents and shoppers.

In addition to the size and width of the link, the main worries were the project design, car parking levels and the links between the town centre and complex.

Mr Laker said: "The consultation process was a big part of our programme and we are now responding to that - how the scheme has changed reflects many of these concerns.

"We are trying to listen to what people want and now we have received the feedback and we will be responding to all these concerns."

New designs for the multi million pound retail and residential redevelopment scheme were last night unveiled to members of the Cattle Market working party.

Small improvements have been made to the public entertainment building while the developers said they were keen to build residential units above the new shops in the Market Thoroughfare.

Once complete the Cattle Market will boast 35 new shops, a Debenhams department store, acting as the site's flagship unit, residential flats and a multi-purpose public building.

Construction of the site is expected to start within a year with the project completed by 2007.

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