Empty shops fear for Bury

ONE of Suffolk's finest market towns is becoming “unsightly and uninviting” and at risk of becoming a “clone town”, it was claimed last night.

Laurence Cawley

ONE of Suffolk's finest market towns is becoming “unsightly and uninviting” and at risk of becoming a “clone town”, it was claimed last night.

That's the warning from newly elected Green county councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer who claims rising numbers of empty shops in the Cornhill, Cornhill Walk and Abbeygate Street area of Bury St Edmunds is damaging the look of the historic town.

He has made an impassioned plea for people to use the town's various independent retailers.

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He said: “Although the town centre still has a busy feel about it especially on market days, there are an increasing number of vacant shops, most obviously in Cornhill, Cornhill Walk and Abbeygate Street which make the town look unsightly and uninviting.

“This is partly because a few shops have moved to the arc, and partly because the recession has led to some large stores, such as Woolworths and Principles, closing down.

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“Bury is blessed with some truly delightful independent retailers - which taken together make the town feel special and different from surrounding clone towns. I firmly believe that we all need to demonstrate our support for independent retailers during these difficult economic times. I for one try to buy as many of the things I need in Bury's independent shops.

“Prior to the opening of the new shopping development - the arc - many businesses and residents expressed extreme concern that the opening of the arc would adversely affect the existing town centre by drawing shoppers, visitors and retailers away. I think the jury is still out on this.”

He said St Edmundsbury Borough Council had taken decisive action by putting up posters in empty shops promoting the town, but warned those posters ran the risk of highlighting the fact the stores were empty. He said he preferred the idea of art works going on display in empty units.

Susan Sollohub, of the Bury St Edmunds Society, said she agreed with most of Mr Ereira-Guyer's points but said promotional posters were better than shops being boarded up.

She added while the society supported independent retailers, it was better to have a national chain store taking over an empty shop than waiting indefinitely for an independent trader to come forward.

And Ruth Brady, chairman of Bury Chamber of Commerce, also felt that parts of the town were uninviting, although insisted that the town was in a good position to weather the economic storm.

A spokesman for the council said: “St Edmundsbury is grateful for Mr Ereira's support for our partnership efforts, with town centre management, to promote Bury St Edmunds and can assure him we will continue to do all we can to maintain the prosperity of all the town's traders.

“It is reassuring to note that our car park numbers continue to be higher than last year, which shows Bury is bucking the national trend and people are coming to town to support their local economy.”

How do you think Bury town centre is coping with the economic problems? Please let us know via mark.crossley@archant.co.uk

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