The Arc - pride or dismay?

RISING up above the former cattle market in Bury St Edmunds the aluminium-clad Arc flagship building has launched widespread debate in this picturesque town.

Will Clarke

RISING up above the former cattle market in Bury St Edmunds the aluminium-clad Arc flagship building has launched widespread debate in this picturesque town.

The EADT asked two leading figures for their views on the largest building development since the completion of the town's medieval abbey.

The case against:-


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Former parliamentary candidate and town preservation activist Sir Reginald Harland believes the Arc development isn't attractive and will damage the existing shopping areas.

He fears the size and number of shops moving to the new Arc will leave the old streets deserted and believes the modern design doesn't integrate well with a town filled with period buildings.

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“It isn't beautiful,” he said. “When it is finished there will be a lot of rude things said about it.

“From the architects point of view it is what the developer wanted but I don't think it is what Bury wants. I don't think there are a lot of people feel it is what is needed but at least it isn't steel and glass.

“The Arc will increase the shopping space in Bury by 30%, which is ridiculous.

“It is going to create a huge number of empty shops.

“There is also going to be far fewer car parking spaces than we need.

“The underground car park they are constructing should have been twice as large as it is.

“The car parking space they will have will also be on the far side, which will be a huge advantage for the new shops over the old town.

“The link development should have been built before they began the main development.

“I would have like to have seen a building more in keeping - I preferred earlier designs for a Georgian style development.

“What they have is inappropriate for Bury.”

Sir Reginald added he would like to have seen more trees in the development, which he said might damage future bids to collect Britain in Bloom prizes.

The case for:-

Manager of the Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce Ruth Brady believes dismay will give way to pride as the Arc development mellows with time.

She argues that some of Bury's best loved period buildings were new once and the different styles now contribute to the town's famous charm.

“When I first saw the plans for the Debenhams building I was, quite frankly, dismayed,” she said. “I couldn't imagine such a design fitting in with our town or enhancing it in any way.

“I am an old fashioned girl and feel most comfortable with mellow, well worn surroundings - I suspect many of Bury's population feel the same.

“The town's streetscape is made up of architectural styles from every century since around 1100 and together it all makes a pleasing jumble of rooflines, windows, doorways and frontages - all of it reassuringly familiar.

“And yet, when the Athenaeum was built in the 18th century - all shiny and new - the architect made no concession to the majestic Abbeygate.

“Moyses Hall and the Market Cross are both on the same square but centuries apart in architectural style. “We think of it all as equally historic, although almost a thousand years separate the most iconic buildings in the town.”

Mrs Brady added: “And now we have the 21st century represented by the Debenhams building.

“It is startling and it is not historic - yet but it is certainly eye catching, and it is notoriously difficult to build a department store with all the demands of modern retailing and make it look better than bland.

“It is a very significant addition to the townscape and rather more sensational than a small town like this might have expected.

“I'm not actually in love with it, yet, but it's growing on me and I think we should accept it for what it is - the latest representation of innovative 21st century architecture in a living town.

“A museum can give us comforting reminders of the past, but I would not like to live in one.”

- What do you think? Have your say by voting on our online poll or by leaving a comment below.

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