Update: The Arc reopens after fears over reported gas leak at shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds

Police at the scene at The Arc

Police at the scene at The Arc - Credit: Archant

One of Suffolk’s biggest shopping centres was evacuated earlier after a reported gas leak.

Police had closed areas around The Arc shopping centre

Police had closed areas around The Arc shopping centre - Credit: Archant

Police said shoppers were asked to leave The Arc at Bury St Edmunds after a “strong smell of gas” was found in the underground car park at the complex.

A police spokesman said the smell was noticed around noon and it was decided immediately to take action to protect the public.

Hundreds of shoppers were asked to leave the centre – which has 36 stores, including a large Debenhams, coffee shops,

restaurants and The Apex theatre and music venue – as quickly as possible.

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Police said fire crews were also present, and gas engineers were called to check the underground parking area.

A spokeswoman for National Grid confirmed that two engineers had inspected the car park but found no gas leak.

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She said: “We were called by the emergency services but we did not find anything. The engineers carried out checks on site at the car park but there was no trace of a gas leak.”

Following the car park check, the engineers had to inspect every shop and restaurant to make sure they were safe.

Traders are expected to have lost thousands of pounds with people gearing up for Christmas on one of the big shopping weekends.

Colin Roberts, centre manager of The Arc, said: “We apologise immensely to everyone in the town because we realise just how much this has affected Bury St Edmunds. We called the emergency services, they attended and with the safety of the public in mind the decision was taken to evacuate The Arc and The Apex of all staff and customers.

“Public safety is the number priority, it was a great multi-agency response and co-operation. It is impossible to estimate how much trade we have lost.”

Police had set up a cordon around the large retail site – with some 20 officers on patrol.

At around 4.40pm part of the shopping centre – the side containing Topman and Fat Face was reopened. A few minutes later the cordon was lifted for the rest of the site.

A police officer at the scene said The Apex was due to be reopen for this evening’s performances.

Scott McKinven, a supervisor at HMV, said: “It was about half 12 when we evacuated when the alarm went off. We cleared the store within two minutes. When we explained it wasn’t a drill everyone co-operated.

“It was busy today we had got a lot of people in the store.”

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