Development 'hitting market trade'

TAKE a look at the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, and you might see a community preparing for one of the biggest shopping and leisure development to hit Suffolk in recent years.

TAKE a look at the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, and you might see a community preparing for one of the biggest shopping and leisure development to hit Suffolk in recent years.

Dig below the surface, however, and the thing on the minds of most residents is the uncertain future of the town that many of them grew up to know and love.

Because shrouded by the promise of new shops and extra visitors is the very real fear that a loss in parking and town centre toilets is literally killing the once vibrant and bustling district.

Market traders whose families have been setting up stall on the streets of the town for generations are now reporting a massive 30% loss in trade, and, with a monthly pitch rental of around £280, have been left wondering how long they can keep going.

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The beleaguered stallholders, along with many independent shop owners, claim the multi-million pound Cattle Market development - which will include 35 shops, homes and a new public venue - and a lack of alternative parking measures are to blame for dwindling visitor numbers.

It is thought that at least four market traders have recently handed their notice in to St Edmundsbury Borough Council, with more stalls expected to fold after Christmas.

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Bill Grimwood, who has run a fruit and vegetable stall for the past seven years, said many people fear the worst.

“Why would people want to carry heavy bags all the way to the multi-storey car park when they can stop right outside a supermarket?” he said.

“Shopping needs to be made easy for people, and the council has made it too hard by taking the car parks away from the town centre. People can't even go to the toilet now unless they walk to Nelson Road, and my fear is that after the development is finished this market will be less than half the size it is now.”

Vegetable trader Martin Hart said: “My family have worked on this market for over 80 years, and lots of people remember my granddad.

“I have got two sons who have just come to work for me and we are now wondering if they will have any future in the business.”

Gary Keeling, who also owns a fruit and vegetable stall, added: “Our produce is very heavy and people can find it difficult to carry it to their cars when they are parked so far out of town. It takes years to get established on a market and it is impossible just to set up somewhere else.”

The council has put a temporary park-and-ride scheme in place for shoppers on the Saturdays leading up to Christmas, as well as during the annual street fair.

But shoppers and traders believe more needs to be done to stop people abandoning Bury.

“I come into the town centre regularly on market days, but I will stop coming here if I can't park,” said Bury resident John Thompson, 73. “I used to park right behind Woolworths, but the multi-storey car park is a long way to walk and I find it a struggle.

“It only takes 20 minutes to get to the Cambridge park-and-ride, and Ipswich is only 30 minutes away, and I think a lot of people will stop shopping in Bury because there are just no parking spaces left.”

Olive Phizacklea , also 73, has to get a taxi from her sheltered accommodation in Spring Lane, Bury, because she is unable to park her car near enough to the town centre.

“I try to get into town each week to look at the stalls, and I used to drive in but I stopped that a few months ago because I cannot manage the walk from the multi-storey car park. I feel quite upset about it,” she said.

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council which claims it is “extremely supportive” of independent traders, said: “Statistics show that people who use cars make the most of all of the car parks we provide in Bury St Edmunds - not just the spaces on the Cattle Market site. Moreover, research has also told us that a significant proportion of those who shop at the market do not rely on a car to travel into town.”

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