Marks and Spencer set for Stowmarket

HOPES are high for a major economic boost in a market town after it emerged that a new Marks & Spencer's store could open on a redeveloped builders' yard site.

By John Howard

HOPES are high for a major economic boost in a market town after it emerged that a new Marks & Spencer's store could open on a redeveloped builders' yard site.

Mid Suffolk District Council is currently considering an application for a new retail store on the former Seamans Builders Yard and Milton Road South area of Stowmarket.

If permission is granted it is believed it will be run as a Marks & Spencer Simply Food Store in a move that could boost trade within Stowmarket.


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Marks & Spencer declined to confirm or deny the news but the EADT understands the company are interested in taking on the land, if planning permission is granted.

Tim Passmore, Conservative leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “I think it a wonderful opportunity and we hope Marks & Spencer will prove a catalyst for other high quality leading retailers to come to Stowmarket.

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“We are looking at regenerating the whole of the town and we want to make it a vibrant thriving high quality place for leisure, homes and commerce.

“We have been in touch with other retailers, and are told that it is very likely that if we get Marks & Spencer then we will also attract stores like Next too.

“I hope it brings more trade to town and hopefully they shop elsewhere too and provide other opportunities for firms to come here.

“I think there are nearly 15,000 people living in Stowmarket now and when all the development is completed that will rise to about 20,000 in a few years time.

“If you take into account the development in other villages then there is a lot of potential shoppers.

“Several million pounds disappears in spending to Ipswich, Bury and elsewhere and while we can't have all that, we could keep some of the money in the local economy.”

Dave Benham, regeneration and community services officer with the council, said this represented a one off opportunity for the town to spark new regeneration, and he feared if this is missed the site would simply become housing.

But Stowmarket town councillors, meeting this week to discuss the application, expressed real fears that it was an inappropriate development for the town.

Gordon Paton, a former mayor and a town councillor, said he welcomed commercial development on the site, but could not support this bid.

He said the building would be too large for the land and would be effectively squashed on to a limited site, which would impact on the conservation area.

And town councillor Duncan Macpherson said: “It is quite clear that this is inappropriate, cheap, standardised design that keeps the costs of the development down.”

And residents David and Della Reed, from The Maltings in Ipswich Street, fear the development would add extra traffic congestion in a town already desperately needing a new relief road.

Mr Reed said: “Traffic is already bottlenecked and it does not seem to me that this store will do anything for the town centre. This Marks & Spencer store would be for people on the go, who would call in their cars and not contribute anything to the centre of town.”

The district council is currently consulting people on the plans and it is thought the application will need to go before district councillors for a decision at a later date for a decision.

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