Fears over interest in new retail site

AN AMBITIOUS shopping complex could end up with "black holes" after some leading high street stores revealed they were uninterested in joining the development.

AN AMBITIOUS shopping complex could end up with "black holes" after some leading high street stores revealed they were uninterested in joining the development.

Only Debenhams has currently been named for inclusion within the multi-million pound Cattle Market scheme in Bury St Edmunds redevelopment. There are now fears among community leaders and residents that the site may be left virtually empty – similar to the flagship complex built in the late 1980s which now houses the town's Iceland store.

An EADT survey of high street names already trading within the town centre showed only one other business, Next, was even considering a move to the new site.

Other big names, including Superdrug, Thorntons, Ottakers and WH Smith, have stated they are content with their current premises.

"The argument now is who is going to fill all those units?" said David Nettleton, an independent serving with St Edmundsbury Borough Council. "This will concern everybody who is interested in making this a viable site.

"We want the shopping facilities in Bury to expand and offer a wider choice to get more people into the town – we cannot offer people that variety at the moment.

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"This is a growing town and the people who live here need supplying with a wider range of shops to prevent them going elsewhere.

"I am just hopeful the right number of units are placed at the site with all of them filled to make sure the whole scheme works well. Otherwise, we could be in trouble."

Mr Nettleton said that links between the new development and existing town centre must be carefully planned to ensure the viability of both, adding that consideration must also be given to traffic management.

"I am hopeful we will use Ram Meadow as a park-and-ride site, to get people into town easily and make their trip a pleasant experience," he said.

"We don't want people to be forced to queue up behind others to get into a car park. We have problems with traffic clogging up the narrow streets as it is, and something must be done about it."

But Steve Bryson, speaking on behalf of developers Centros Miller, said it was too early to discuss the fine detail of parking arrangements, while negotiations regarding potential retailers were yet to begin.

"We will not know exactly how many different retailers will be on the site until a floor plan and planning application are complete, which also depends on the treatment of the public building," he said.

"Obviously it has been decided that Debenhams will be included, but the actual marketing to all the retailers selling the spaces has not begun. A number of people have already expressed interest.

"There is always plenty of demand for spaces in Bury, and the whole point of the development is to bring more traders into the town.

"It is reassuring that the majority of retailers want to remain in the existing town centre, which shows they have confidence in the area, as do we.

"However, we do recognise there will be one or two existing businesses wanting to move, as they cannot get the space they need to expand as there is no room in the historic core.

"But any fears regarding empty shops will not be justified. There will be no black holes in Bury, as demand to move into the town is high."

Andrew Varley, a conservative councillor and chair of the Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party, said: "When the time comes for the developers to look at businesses who wish to open upon the site, we have every confidence there will be a very wide choice."

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