Town's gateway set for major facelift

THE "rundown" gateway to a historic Suffolk town could be given a multi-million pound facelift as plans for a major regeneration project enter their initial stages.

THE "rundown" gateway to a historic Suffolk town could be given a multi-million pound facelift as plans for a major regeneration project enter their initial stages.

Officials are hoping to transform the Station Hill area of Bury St Edmunds to improve the first impressions of the town to those arriving by train.

And although the scheme is currently in the very early stages, expectations are high a major regeneration project could transform the site's "exciting potential" into a mixed-use reality featuring homes, businesses and leisure provision.

"Station Hill is a very important site because it is one of our entry points to the town centre and creates the first impressions to anyone arriving by train," said Terry Clements, portfolio holder for planning and transport on St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

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"It has very exciting potential and we are hoping that a major regeneration scheme can be achieved here on this brownfield site.

"We are very keen to ensure that local people and organisations are involved at a very early stage."

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Earlier this year, the council invited representatives from the railway station, fitness centre, nightclub and smaller business already at the site to take part in a "design clinic", where ambitions for the future of the area were discussed.

Now ideas generated by the day will be used to produce a concept statement, which will later form the basis of a developer's masterplan.

"I am all in favour of this," said David Nettleton, whose Risbygate ward includes Station Hill. "It is a rundown area and gives a bad first impression to first-time visitors to the town by rail.

"Some of the buildings there are really not worth preserving. Most of them could go, and hopefully be replaced with a mixed-use site with some housing and some businesses.

"I can see great possibilities for that area but we are still at the chin-stroking stage and it will be around five years before anything much starts to happen."

The northern side of Station Hill has already been allocated for the construction of 140 homes, although this number may change when an inquiry into the local plan is held in the autumn.

It is hoped development of the entire site can be achieved in a co-ordinated fashion, and the council may buy areas from different landowners through compulsory purchase orders to ensure any masterplan can be delivered.

Officials are also keen to improve the links between rail and bus services at Station Hill, to encourage residents of neighbouring villages to utilise public transport into town.

The concept statement, outlining aspirations for the project, will be published by the end of this year.

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