Parking is 'the biggest negative issue' for visitors to popular town

Emergency services were called to Angel Hill after a car collided with the town's newly installed Ch

Emergency services were called to Angel Hill after a car collided with the town's newly installed Christmas tree Picture: GREGG BROWN

More work will be done to address concerns over parking, a business leader has said, after a survey found it was still the biggest, negative issue for town centre visitors.

The study commissioned by the Our Bury St Edmunds BID (Business Improvement District) found 42% of respondents rated parking a negative aspect and commented that they want more, cheaper parking.

West Suffolk Council, which manages short-stay and long-stay car parks in the town centre, said the survey showed "the majority of people do not think that parking charges are unfair".

The council increased parking tariffs for the first time in five years in July, to help pay for important town centre services.

It now costs £4 for an all-day ticket at the Parkway multi-storey car park when it used to be £2.70.

The study, carried out by researchers from People and Places, also showed the town centre is bouncing back well from the pandemic.

Mark Cordell, CEO at ourburystedmunds BID.

Mark Cordell, CEO of Bury BID, wants to discuss parking concerns with West Suffolk Council. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brownn

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Mark Cordell, chief executive of the BID, said: "This study gives us real insight into what people think of the town including the areas where improvements need to be made.

"Every time we have carried out this survey the biggest issue that people raise is car parking and this year is no different with more than 40% of respondents rating parking as a negative aspect and commenting that they want more, cheaper parking.

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"It’s something that the BID will be raising with car park providers in the town centre and bringing these specific concerns to the relevant local authorities.”

Mark Cordell, CEO at ourburystedmunds BID. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mark Cordell from Bury BID, which commissioned the survey. - Credit: Archant

He said pay-on-exit could be extended to other car parks and there could be more long-stay options.

He said when compared to other similar-sized towns, Bury had a low percentage of people that stay beyond four hours than elsewhere.

"We are an organisation that wants people to come into town and enjoy it as much as possible. That's something I want to discuss with the council," he said.

The Cattlemarket car park used to have a four-hour stay limit, but it has been reduced to three hours.

The survey, which questioned more than 1,100 people, found 91% of respondents would recommend a visit to the town centre and almost 70% endorsed its vibrant restaurant and café sector.

And nearly 20% of those questioned would usually spend more than £50 when they come into town - 9% up on the national average.

Although 57% of respondents said they come into town at least once a week, the results indicate that frequency of visits has declined because of the pandemic and other reasons such as working from home.

But others who visit the town as much or more than they previously did indicated they felt comfortable and safe in the town centre.

Abbey Gardens in Bury has been buzzing with people enjoying ice creams and walks.

The Abbey Gardens is one of the top places to visit in England. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A West Suffolk Council spokesperson said: “The survey is an indication that our economic investment and partnership work with the BID and other town centre stakeholder and businesses has helped to provide a safe environment for people returning to the town centre and we would like to thank residents and visitors for supporting local businesses.

"As the town continues to recover, we will continue this important partnership work." 

Bury has Suffolk's only Michelin-starred restaurant, Pea Porridge, and is home to the Abbey Gardens, named as one of England's top five attractions.

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