Ghost town fears when shops move out

CONCERNS have been voiced for the future of one of Suffolk's most prestigious town centres after it emerged some of its best known stores were moving to a new multi-million pound retail development.

Laurence Cawley

CONCERNS have been voiced for the future of one of Suffolk's most prestigious town centres after it emerged some of its best known stores were moving to a new multi-million pound retail development.

Deals have been struck with 18 major retailers for plots on the £100 million Arc development on the former cattle market site in Bury St Edmunds. But last night it emerged six of those stores were already mainstays of Bury's shopping economy - sparking fears of empty premises in the historic town centre.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council claims the stores involved - Monsoon, Next, Topshop, New Look, Vodafone and Waterstones - need more space and the gaps they leave behind present a major opportunity for smaller retailers in the town looking to move into larger premises.

But the town's chamber of commerce voiced its concerns over shops lying empty and called on the council to do everything possible to market the existing town centre.

Chrissy Harrod, president of Bury Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are working with the borough because what we don't want is these units staying empty. For the town centre we don't want to see any empty units for any length of time. It doesn't look good and it can cause problems.

Most Read

“We want the working group to make sure it is making every effort to market the existing town. We don't want cheap shops moving in. We just want to see the Arc development open because it has not been easy living through this - businesses have been weathering a storm.”

She praised town centre retailers such as Javelin and Palmers for investing in their existing premises and said they would be pivotal in ensuring the future success of the town centre.

Sarah Mildmay-White, chairman of the council's Bury St Edmunds Town Centre and Cattle Market Working Party, said: “We've worked very hard on this and there's a limit on the number that can go. The anchor stores like Marks and Spencer have agreed to stay.

“A lot of those that are moving, such as Monsoon, need larger premises and some of the premises and none of them have proper disabled access.

“There are obviously going to be changes around the town centre and some shuffling about. But it also presents an opportunity for the smaller retailers to come in or move into a larger unit.

“I think it is a really exciting time. There are bound to be changes but the rents are standing up and the town will remain vibrant.”

A council spokeswoman said the new stores attracted into the town, which include Fat Face, Hobbs, Crew Clothing and the record-seller HMV, would offer “something completely new” to young people in Bury.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter