Fears for future of famous street

By Dave GooderhamQUAINT independent stores that have made a street famous could become a thing of the past unless more is done to protect them, a former trader has warned.

By Dave Gooderham

QUAINT independent stores that have made a street famous could become a thing of the past unless more is done to protect them, a former trader has warned.

St John's Street has long been viewed as the heartbeat of Bury St Edmunds' independent retail community, full of quirky and unusual shops.

But Loretta Quartey, owner of Carpet Bags, which has now closed its doors in the town, said council bosses should look at the level of rates in the street and improve parking - which she described as “atrocious”.

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Mrs Quartey, who is now running the business from a farmhouse in Ely, said: “We were in the area for more than 25 years, but it became too expensive. We were paying quite high retail rates when only a small portion of our business was in fact retail.

“It's okay for big businesses, but the rate levels leave independent stores on the edge. St John's Street was renowned for its independent retailers, but this has changed quite a lot over the last 10 years.

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“Quite a lot of people now come and go and the main established shops are now charity stores which get help with their rates.

“It seems like the council are not aware of this. We would like them to look at each business individually and not just give a blanket coverage of rates.”

Mrs Quartey revealed she feared for the future of some independent stores in the wake of the impending Cattle Market development - where a wave of well-known retailers is expected to sign up for the town.

She said: “I am not quite sure what influence the Cattle Market will have on the independent shops, but you are going to get bigger retailers and people are going to be more geared towards places where they can park.

“The parking in St John's Street is atrocious - it is getting less and less and you can only park for 30 minutes and that's not even enough to browse one shop.

“The town is getting bigger and bigger and more and more houses are being built. But while more money is being raised through council tax, facilities are not being made available for the provision of parking.”

Chrissy Harrod, chairman of Bury St Edmunds' Chamber of Commerce, also voiced her fears for St John's Street.

“Losing Carpet Bags is very sad for the town because the independent stores very much make Bury a special place,” she said.

“There are a wealth of them and protecting them is becoming a constant battle. Rates are high and rents seem to be going up and any help the borough council can give is needed.”

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “St Edmundsbury is not responsible for setting business rates, this is something that is done nationally by the Government.

“The parking arrangements have been working successfully in St John's Street for 10 years without any changes.”


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