Villagers' tax fear may force poll

RESIDENTS of a Suffolk village who fear a nearby town centre redevelopment could push their council tax bills through the roof may soon call for a poll to gauge local opinion.

RESIDENTS of a Suffolk village who fear a nearby town centre redevelopment could push their council tax bills through the roof may soon call for a poll to gauge local opinion.

People living in Stanton could force the vote at a special public meeting examining the £80m Cattle Market project, designed to transform the centre of Bury St Edmunds with 35 new shops, a department store and entertainment venue.

The news comes just one day before the residents of Bury go to the polls for a similar ballot costing taxpayers £10,000 - the results of which officials masterminding the scheme have no statutory duty to act upon.

“There is some concern among the residents about how much the Cattle Market will cost,” said Jim Thorndyke, chairman of Stanton Parish Council.

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“These comments were brought to the parish council, which decided to hold a meeting to discuss the matter.

“At the moment I am trying to avoid a poll and would prefer to go down the road of a local questionnaire to gain opinions on various aspects of the development.

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“This could then be fed back to St Edmundsbury Borough Council (which is masterminding the scheme). I feel this would be more constructive and cheaper.”

Officials from the borough council will man a display at Stanton Village Hall on December 10 showing the latest designs for the project.

Following this discussion, villagers will hold the meeting. If ten residents call for the vote, the parish council will be forced to run the ballot at a cost of £1,000.

However, officials behind the scheme say extensive public consultation has already taken place, with the discussion process continuing over the next few weeks.

“A consultation during the summer gave us a lot of feedback, and we are continuing to talk,” said Steve Bryson of Halogen, which is carrying out the consultation on behalf of developers Centros Miller.

“We have a whole series of meetings set up with various interest groups, and as a result things are changing with the scheme all the time.

“That leads us to a problem with these parish polls, as inevitably they are out of date.

“They are also not likely to be the most representative of polls because of the way they have to be conducted by law, which is why we have been putting out so much information to show what has changed.”

Mr Bryson said a new questionnaire, run by NOP, the independent pollster company, was currently taking place, with views collected on a random basis from households in the immediate Bury area.

The results should be known within the coming two weeks.

And the people of Bury will also go to the vote tomorrow, to give their views on whether the “basic design” of the Cattle Market is “suitable” for the town.

Polling stations will be open between 4pm and 9pm, and anyone with any questions about the location of their nearest station should contact the electoral services manager at the borough council on 01284 763233.

n The meeting in Stanton will take place in the village hall on December 10 at 7.30pm. Before the event, officials from the borough council will be on hand to discuss the Cattle Market designs between 2.30pm and 7pm.

n Centros Miller has registered a fresh planning application relating to the Market Thoroughfare link between the existing town centre and the Cattle Market site.

It asks permission to demolish the current Top Shop and Stead and Simpson buildings, on the Cornhill, and redevelop the area to provide retail and residential space.

Bosses hope to acquire the premises to create a wider link. It is believed the application for planning permission has been lodged in preparation for any future deal with the buildings' owner.

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