Town could get new entertainments venue

By Liz HearnshawAN entertainments venue, described as “vital to the success” of a multi-million-pound town centre redevelopment scheme, has won the approval of councillors.

By Liz Hearnshaw

AN entertainments venue, described as “vital to the success” of a multi-million-pound town centre redevelopment scheme, has won the approval of councillors.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is now to spend £16million of its vast reserves on the new public building earmarked for the Cattle Market in Bury St Edmunds - provided the final go-ahead is granted next week.

The council's cabinet voted in favour of the scheme - which officials hope will rival the best in the region - at a meeting on Wednesday.

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Now members must convince the full council on Tuesday the project can become the focal point of the site, while remaining viable throughout its lifetime.

Andrew Varley, deputy leader of the council, said: “We have a unique opportunity here. The success of the whole project hinges on this public building.

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“This will make an important architectural statement and should be both an auditorium and a community facility which everyone can use.

“I feel such enthusiasm for this scheme and it seems quite clear to me that the advantages are tremendous. We take this case seriously and are determined to make it a success.”

Committee members said the “crucial” project will add an extra dimension to the otherwise retail-led redevelopment, breathing life into the site during the evenings when the shops would otherwise be shut.

If approved by full council on Tuesday, the proposals will pave the way for Bury Art Gallery's move to the Corn Exchange - which, when the new venue is complete, will become surplus to the council's requirements.

Members also voted in favour of transferring two leisure complexes to the management of a non-profit making trust.

Officials said the move would benefit customers using the centres in Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds, while allowing bosses to attract outside investment currently unavailable to the council.

It is hoped a trust can begin operating the complexes, which cost about £1m every year to run, by October next year.

It is estimated the transfer could save St Edmundsbury Borough Council between £130,000 and £200,000 annually.

While the authority will still own the buildings, the newly-established trust would be granted a long lease for both sites.

Reports estimated more than £750,000 must be spent replacing worn-out machinery and equipment at Bury St Edmunds leisure centre, while an additional £63,000 should be earmarked to improve disabled access to upper floors of the complex.

Officials said the council would reap no financial benefit from waiting for the transfer to take place before carrying out the work.

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