Poll shows support for £80m project

A LEADING councillor believes the “silent majority” has spoken after an independent poll showed 57% of people supported an £80million town centre redevelopment scheme.

A LEADING councillor believes the “silent majority” has spoken after an independent poll showed 57% of people supported an £80million town centre redevelopment scheme.

One thousand people were quizzed in the NOP World survey on the Cattle Market project in Bury St Edmunds, with 26% against the proposals and 15% undecided.

The results have been revealed a week after an £11,000 parish poll was held over the scheme - during which only 7% of the electorate turned out and an overwhelming 87% voted against the design.

But officials masterminding the redevelopment say the NOP poll provides a more representative impression of the views of a true cross-section of society.

Andrew Varley, chairman of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's Cattle Market redevelopment working party, said: “Someone made a comment at a meeting recently disparaging the silent majority - in effect what was said was that the silent majority should be ignored if they don't speak out.

“I am delighted that this unpleasant and elitist view has not prevailed and that we now have an accurate and scientific reflection of public opinion.

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“Unlike self-selecting events, which inevitably tend to be dominated by those with an axe to grind, this type of scientifically valid poll gives us a representative picture of a cross section of our society.

“It includes people of all different ages and backgrounds, not merely those with sufficient leisure and means to make a full-time occupation of imposing their minority view. The majority is no longer silent.”

But David Bradbury, who serves on both the borough council and Bury Town Council and led the delegation of residents who called last week's parish poll, said: “These results do not really reflect the correspondence I have had.

“I cannot really argue against the figures from NOP, but I would say the parish poll was a democratic event, and people who were interested took part. I would still hope the results will be taken into consideration.”

People were selected at random to take part in the questionnaire, with NOP ensuring quotas of age, sex and working status were filled to provide an accurate cross-section of opinions.

The survey was commissioned after changes were made to the original plans for the Cattle Market, prompted by a public consultation exercise.

These included widening the Market Thoroughfare link to the existing town centre and creating five new shops and residential apartments along its length.

The results show 37% of those quizzed were now more favourable about the scheme as a result of the changes, while 55% had not changed their minds.

John Laker, managing director of developers Centros Miller, said: “This survey gives an accurate reflection of what all the people of Bury St Edmunds currently think about our scheme and shows that about three-quarters of people are either in support or have an open mind about the development.

“Not only does the survey reveal majority support, it also shows that the recent changes we have made in response to our earlier consultation have been very well received.”

Of those against the scheme, masterminded by the borough council, the majority cited fears over a lack of car parking as their main concern.

Around 22% of those who voted against felt the development would change the area for the worse, while 19% did not like the design.

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