Town link set for axe in secret deal

COUNCIL chiefs last night admitted a secret deal was close to being signed which would mean a long-promised link between the old and new halves of Bury St Edmunds’ town centre will be dropped.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council had previously pledged to deliver the expanded link at Market Thoroughfare to open up the historic town core with the new Arc retail centre. But it has now emerged the plans will not go ahead.

The council and the developer are working on an alternative deal after the link scheme – which had been vaunted by both parties over the years – was deemed too expensive to pursue. The revelations, which have stunned business and community leaders, come as the developer, Centros, tries to sell off the Arc site.

Although the council did not deny the link project had now been dropped, it would not comment on the nature of the alternative deal.

“We are negotiating with the developer and we won’t be commenting until we have reached an agreement,” a council spokeswoman said.

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Rick Wildridge, chairman of the town’s chamber of commerce, said: “Of all the things about the Arc, the link was the key thing that we thought was essential to the whole concept. The Arc is great – provided it was seamlessly linked to the rest of the town.

“There will be a lot of disappointed people and businesses throughout the town. It is really, really disappointing. We will have Central Walk and Market Thoroughfare. One is an alleyway, the other is a narrow alleyway. There were all the promises and promises, but it was never set in concrete.”

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Mark Ereira, a member of the LLINK group on the council, said he was one of a handful who voted against the move to abandon the wider link scheme.

“The people and small independent traders of the town expected their council to make sure it delivered this link,” he said. “I hope people do express their anger about this because the Arc development was sold to the public on the basis that there would be a proper link between the traditional town centre and the new development.”

His fellow group member David Nettleton accused council chiefs of breaking promises over the link and said the town would now be left split in two halves.

Mr Ereira is standing as a candidate for the Bury St Edmunds constituency in next month’s general election. The other candidates are David Chappell (Lib Dem), Kevin Hind (Lab), John Howlett (UKIP) and the sitting MP David Ruffley (Con).

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