Fears for future of historic market

A HISTORIC town centre market more than 1,000 years old could be wiped out within months due to the advent of a multi-million pound shopping complex, it has been warned.

A HISTORIC town centre market more than 1,000 years old could be wiped out within months due to the advent of a multi-million pound shopping complex, it has been warned.

Traders currently making a living from the two-day-a-week outdoor market in Bury St Edmunds fear a loss in amenities and car parking spaces - which have been closed to make way for the Cattle Market development - could spell disaster for their future in the town.

And they have predicted the market, which currently attracts shoppers from all over the region, could be killed off by next Christmas with more and more shoppers - especially the elderly and disabled - being put off by the prospect of having to park further out of town.

Simon Harding, who volunteers on a charity market stall most Wednesdays and Saturdays, said it is only a matter of time before people stop coming into Bury, especially given the recent loss of much-needed town centre toilets.


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But St Edmundsbury Borough Council last night defended its support of the traders, and labelled Mr Harding's comments “unhelpful and mischievous”.

“The market traders and shopkeepers are desperately worried,” said Mr Harding, who believes fruit and vegetable traders will be the first to suffer due to customers not wishing to carry heavy produce to their cars. “I think it will not be long before we start seeing a reduction in the number of stalls, and eventually the market will be killed off - there is no doubt about that.”

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Mr Harding, who sells garden and house plants from his market stall to raise money for local charities, is planning to stage a peaceful demonstration on the site of the Cattle Market development, which is due to be completed by September 2008.

The protest, which will take place at 11.15am on Friday at the town's Prospect Row car park, is planned to coincide with the private firm Centros Miller officially taking over responsibility of the project from the borough council.

Mr Harding added: “The market provides a marvellous service, but most of the traders are a one-man-band, and their stalls are their livelihood. A 5% drop in trade might not seem a lot but it can mean the difference between survival and going under.

“People are not fools, and they will go elsewhere to shop if they have not got easy access to the town.

“I am not totally against the Cattle Market development going ahead, but I am saying that while it is being built we have got to make an effort to make sure the economy of our town is not irrevocably damaged.”

Bury's market is thought to date back to around 630AD, when it was believed to be set up in the area of what is today known as St Mary's Square.

John Griffiths, St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader and Chairman of the Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party, said: “We have always been, and will continue to be, extremely supportive of our excellent independent traders and find Mr Harding's comments unhelpful, unfounded and mischievous. It is a great shame that some people find it necessary to scaremonger and talk down the town when, in reality, the future is bright for Bury St Edmunds.”

lisa.cleverdon@eadt.co.uk

Market facts

n Bury's first market was believed to have taken place in 603AD, around the area of what is today known as St Mary's Square.

n Control of the market was passed to the Crown during the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

n A town plan, dated 1747, included mention of a horse market, butter and fish market, great market and beast market.

n In 1993 Simpson's Cattle Market site was sold to St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which leased it to Lacy Scott.

n The market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Cornhill and the Buttermarket areas of the town.

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