Opinions split on £100m retail plan

A £100M shopping development under construction in a Suffolk town continues to split public opinion, according to an EADT online poll.

Will Clarke

A £100M shopping development under construction in a Suffolk town continues to split public opinion, according to an EADT online poll.

A vote asking what impact the Arc development will have on Bury St Edmunds saw 43% of respondents say it would be “the last nail in the coffin” of the existing town centre.

However, 30% of the 314 people who responded believed it would be a “huge boost” for Bury.

Work on the Arc is continuing, and the emergence of its striking, flagship Debenhams store, which is set to open this Easter, has proved to be the latest talking point.

In last week's EADT leading town figures debated Bury's future as the final pieces of metal cladding were secured to the controversial building on the town's former cattle market.

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Sir Reginald Harland, who fears the Arc is too big and ugly, felt the poll results supported his views but the success of the development was based on more than one controversial building.

“Its success and the town centre's future is dependent a lot of other factors - like the economy,” he said. “It is going to be a difficult time for the town. I think we will be lucky to get away without big problems. Shopping floor space will increase by 40% in one go but we won't get 40% more shoppers. I think there will be a lot of empty shops especially in the existing town centre because all the advertising will be focussed on getting people into the development.

“I don't think the Debenhams store is pretty - it will be like the Cornhill Walk, which is horrendous - luckily we don't have to go into it.”

Ruth Brady, manager of the Bury chamber of commerce, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the poll's findings.

She said: “We have had nothing but negativity since beginning the project but if you talk to the young people they just can't wait for it to open and they can't work out why people are so opposed to it.

“I understand people fear change because to be honest nobody knows what it is going to be like but all this unnecessary hysteria is likely to damage the town far more than the Arc is ever likely to.

“It represents investment in the town in difficult times. I personally am looking forward to it opening. It will cause a certain amount of upheaval but we will be well positioned to weather that and take advantage of the new opportunities.”

It wasn't all bad news for developer Centros Miller and its architects. In the poll, conducted on the EADT's website, 9.5% of the 314 respondents said they believed it would be “a thing of beauty”.


The new Arc development in Bury St Edmunds will be:

A thing of beauty: 9.5%

A stain on the town: 18.5%

A huge boost for Bury: 30%

The nail in the coffin for the existing town centre: 43%

Total votes: 314