Secret deal over link to Arc denied

COUNCIL chiefs were accused last night of “betraying” taxpayers after it was claimed they are about to accept a plot of land worth �1million –rather than insist on the delivery of a �5.9m project which supporters claim is vital.

The alleged deal between St Edmundsbury Borough Council and developers Centros could mean the end of plans for a long-pledged link between the historic Bury town centre and new Arc shopping centre.

It has been claimed that not only has the link scheme been scrapped but that the council is poised to accept land worth just �1m rather than press ahead with the link scheme which would have cost almost �6million.

Mark Ereira, a member of the LLINK group on the council, alleged the borough had “short-changed” voters by agreeing, in private session, not to force the developer to complete the link, which would have joined the old town and the new.

“I believe this is a betrayal of what everybody has been led to believe about the Link,” Mr Ereira said.

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“People feel really distressed the council has allowed the developers to walk away from their commitment to the town.”

Mr Ereira, who voted against the move, claimed Centros would instead give the borough council land in the centre of Bury worth less than �5.9 million.

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“We have got good, independent retailers who accepted the new development on the grounds that there would be a proper link through,” he said.

“I hope the financial information will come into the public domain because then the public will realise how much they have been short changed.”

But John Griffiths, leader of the borough council, denied any deal had been made.

“There has been no formal offer or acceptance of an offer,” he said. “We have been and continue to be in very serious negotiations with Centros about the link and possible alternatives.

“Everything is possible and we are still trying to come to a conclusion as soon as we can.”

Mr Griffiths denied any offer had been made or accepted by the council, saying any negotiations will be made public when they are concluded.

“Until we have actually come up with a deal there is nothing to report,” he said. “Unfortunately the leaking of the story that we are in these negotiations is extremely unhelpful to the taxpayers and the town.”

He added the possibility of the original link going ahead was looking unlikely.

“The link that was envisioned five of six years ago is looking less likely,” he said. “However, there are other possibilities which may be even better for the seamless integration of the old town and the new.”

n Mr Ereira is standing as a Green candidate for the Bury St Edmunds constituency in next month’s general election. The other candidates are David Chappell (Lib Dem), Kevin Hind (Lab), John Howlett (UKIP) and the sitting MP David Ruffley (Con).

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