Town ballot costs £5 per vote
A £10,000 ballot to gauge opinion on an £80million redevelopment project has cost taxpayers in a Suffolk town more than £5 per vote cast – after only 7% of the electorate turned out.
A £10,000 ballot to gauge opinion on an £80million redevelopment project has cost taxpayers in a Suffolk town more than £5 per vote cast - after only 7% of the electorate turned out.
And although an overwhelming 81% of those who went to the polls yesterday disliked the design of the Cattle Market scheme planned for Bury St Edmunds, those masterminding the build said the figure was not representative.
Following the result, Frank Warby, Bury Town Mayor - whose authority was forced to hold the ballot by a group of ten residents - said: "I think this is an absolute waste of money.
"Only 7% turned out - is that representative of the town? Is £5 per vote good value for money? I don't think so.
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"However, we put on the poll as ten residents asked us to and we will look at what they have said and we will move forward."
Nearly 28,000 people living in the town were eligible to vote in the ballot, but only 1,970 visited a polling station, 354 voting in favour of the scheme's basic design and 1,611 against.
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And St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which is masterminding the scheme with developers Centros Miller, has no statutory duty to act on the results.
But campaigners who forced the parish poll at a public meeting called by Bury Town Council earlier this year defended the vote.
"I do not feel this was a waste of money," said David Bradbury, a town councillor who led the delegation of residents who called the ballot.
"People have had the opportunity to express their opinion in a questionnaire which has not been submitted by an interested party.
"It was a question by residents for residents, not by the developer or borough council."
He added: "I wish the turnout had been slightly higher, but everyone in the town was given the chance to vote.
"It shows an overwhelming majority of those interested in the project do not like the design that has been submitted.
"I would like the borough council and Centros Miller to just look at the results of the poll and decided there are some things which could be looked at.
"I do not think anyone wants the scheme dropped or delayed, and most people want things to be done as this is a valuable piece of land in a prime location, but there are some fundamental things which could be addressed before it gets too late."
Mr Bradbury cited car parking concerns and the proposed public building as areas of concern to both himself and the ten residents who forced the vote.
They are now asking the borough council to re-examine these issue before granting planning permission to the project.
However, developers Centros Miller say consultation with the public is still continuing and all detail has still to be finalised before building work can begin next year.
Once complete, the site will boast 35 new shops, a multi-purpose public building, flagship Debenhams department store and residential provision.