Town centre £10m revamp moves closer

TRADERS will start receiving compulsory purchase orders within the next few days as developers prepare up for a £10million transformation of a town centre.

John Howard

TRADERS will start receiving compulsory purchase orders within the next few days as developers prepare up for a £10million transformation of a town centre.

The move, by Mid Suffolk District Council, would see about 13 businesses, plus the old post office and sorting office and the large 1950s United Reformed Church on the west side of Ipswich Street in Stowmarket bulldozed by a developer.

Among the firms set to go are the Halifax and a number of independent retailers, charity shops and takeaways, which are housed in 1960s-style properties.

A new retail area would rise from the rubble within the conservation area, expected to be in a Georgian style, with large and independent shops, cafes, restaurants and new apartments.

Compulsory purchase orders will be sent out to everyone within the development site at the beginning of next month. If any of the shops affected refuse to sell, then the orders could be enacted.

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Dawn Easter, an economic development officer with the authority who is closely involved with the project, said: “The developer is still keen, the credit crunch has not affected them. Stowmarket seems to be bucking the trend.

“More than 100 new jobs were created at Bosch's factory recently, the empty shops have not increased, things are getting no worse yet, unemployment is slightly up - but not dramatically.

“We are creating a long-term vision so when the economy is back up Stowmarket will be ready to take advantage of it.

“Retailers are still very interested in coming here, they just need the right shops to go into.”

Paul Shepherd, who runs Tuckers independent sandwich bar which is one of the businesses which would be demolished under the plans, said trade was very slow in a town that had a large number of charity shops.

He said he believed the plans were good news for the community and criticised the council for not moving faster.

He said: “How long does it take for them to get their act together? Some shops have been empty for two years.

“When I first came here eight years ago it was a thriving little town, but every day less and less people come in. Why wait?”

The authority wants to see demolition work on site starting in May 2011 for the project, which is expected to cost between £5m and £10m and to stretch 140 metres along the street. The move is almost certain to trigger a public inquiry.

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