'Silent majority must back major scheme'

A LEADING councillor has urged the "silent majority" she believes fully support an ambitious £75m retail redevelopment scheme to make their voices heard.

A LEADING councillor has urged the "silent majority" she believes fully support an ambitious £75m retail redevelopment scheme to make their voices heard.

The rally-cry comes after the early stages of a special EADT poll revealed many residents in the Bury St Edmunds area share reservations over the plans for the town's redundant Cattle Market site.

The scheme, masterminded by St Edmundsbury Borough Council and developers Centros Miller, will see 35 new shops, a public building, Debenhams department store and 56 residential flats built on the redundant site in the centre of town.

But two weeks after the EADT's ballot was launched, more than 200 completed replies have been submitted, and show that public opinion is split.

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Many who have responded so far have expressed concern over parking provision, the proposed public building and the design of the scheme.

But a leading councillor last night warned that without the development, Bury was in danger of withering.

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"I am confident that the vast majority of people do want to see this development take place," said Sheila Wormleighton, vice-chairman of the council's Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party.

"I urgently appeal to the younger people, and those who simply want to see this go ahead, to respond in a positive manner and affirm what the aims of the development are.

"This is a direct invitation for people to comment, and for the silent majority to give their support to the project.

"Clearly the town has always moved with the times to have maintained its prominence in Suffolk and its viability. If we do not do this now, there it no doubt about it - the town will wither."

Concerns raised by readers included fears the development may spoil the character of a traditional market town, with larger retailers forcing out smaller independent traders.

Iris Eley, from Little Thurlow, who responded to the poll, said: "The appeal of Bury is the amount of small shops in side streets which sell a variety of goods. I think the Cattle Market plans would deprive Bury of its unique character, and we would have only the multiples like every other town in the area."

And David Bowle, who lives in the town, said: "Bury is a hub for a large rural population, most of which will always want to travel by car.

"If they cannot find convenient parking in the town, they will go elsewhere, leaving Bury with an expensive white elephant."

But Brian Cash, who lives in the town's Corsbie Close, said he wholly supported the Cattle Market plans.

"All towns need development and this one will be appreciated in 50 years time," he said. "The public building is an essential item with much potential.

"The parking is an issue, I appreciate, but there was no parking there when the Cattle Market was up and running some years ago. There is so much internal traffic in Bury these days that this needs to be reduced by having more parking outside the town rather than in it.

"Developing car parking just outside the town, such as at Ram Meadow, would be an appropriate answer to restricting the current Cattle Market parking potential once the plans are confirmed."

A three-year public consultation on the scheme will soon draw to a close, before planning permission for the project is determined later this year.

Leaflets will be sent to 40,000 homes across the area asking for views, with the results fed back to the council.

And the EADT's poll is to continue for another two weeks before the results are fully revealed.

Readers can fill in the ballot paper printed in today's EADT, and cast their votes in: Court News, Glastonbury Road, Bury St Edmunds; Eastgate Stores, Eastgate Street, Bury St Edmunds; McColls, in the Hardwick Centre on Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds.

Replies can also be handed in or posted to the EADT's offices at 11, Woolhall Street, Bury St Edmunds.

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