Plea made to invest in Stowmarket amid declining visitor fears
PUBLISHED: 18:06 16 January 2020 | UPDATED: 18:06 16 January 2020
A plea has been made by Mid Suffolk's Green party for more to be done for Stowmarket, amid warnings it will not thrive without help.
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During a discussion of the 2020 budget at Mid Suffolk District Council's cabinet meeting on Monday, Green councillor Keith Welham urged the Conservative administration to do more for the district's key town or risk its decline. He said: "Stowmarket needs a boost. It's empty in the afternoon and quite a lot of the evening. "If we want to keep Stowmarket as a thriving market town it needs a boost. "Clearly the upgrade of the Regal [theatre] will provide a boost but we need to get the people living in the villages around into Stowmarket. "We need to get people coming in to visit a particular thing, whether it be a film, or go shopping, or the museum - we need to keep them there. "One thing to keep them there for an hour or two is an electric vehicle charging point." Mr Welham said bus discounts or free parking after 3pm could help entice people to the town, as there was not enough to encourage people at the moment. He said: "People in Stowupland don't cross the A14 to go into Stowmarket anymore - it's so much easier and more pleasant to go to Bury. "We have got to do something to attract people into Stowmarket. "We have got a real opportunity for people moving to Stowmarket to shop in Stowmarket, and I don't see anything other than the Regal money." As part of the party's alternative budget, it proposes public art displays to promote the local market towns and more electric vehicle charging points. John Whitehead, Conservative cabinet member for finance at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: "I very much share the thoughts on Stowmarket. "Some people say they are stopping going into our county town of Ipswich and perhaps Stowmarket is an alternative, but I can still see that Bury because of its critical size is a big draw. "I think all of us who are residents in Mid Suffolk would like to see Stowmarket developed." The council has embarked on a multi-million pound Vision for Prosperity plan for the town since Spring 2018. Among the projects currently underway is an overhaul of the former NatWest bank to tie up with the adjoining John Peel Centre's activities, plans for a technology hub in the town, an extension to the Regal theatre, an ambition for free wi-fi in the town centre and enhancements to public areas with sculpture and art.