Youth exodus puts town's future at risk

THE economic future of a cherished Suffolk market town is under threat from an exodus of young people, it was claimed last night.

Laurence Cawley

THE economic future of a cherished Suffolk market town is under threat from an exodus of young people, it was claimed last night.

Census data for St Edmundsbury shows the borough's elderly population is growing while the number of younger people living in the area is shrinking.

The number of people aged between 15 and 34 years old in 1991 was about 27,000 but by 2001- the most recent figures available - that number had tumbled to just 24,600.

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And the situation has worsened, according to the Bury St Edmunds Society and Richard Rout, leader of Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

Young people claim there is not enough for them to do in Bury and some would much prefer to live in a city.

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Mr Rout said: “The younger population is vital to an area's economy. Essentially, the anecdotal evidence is that a lot of young people tend to leave Bury.

“They say they may return here in the future, perhaps to settle down and have children. For some, it (Bury) doesn't offer a great deal.

“The Cattle Market and University College Suffolk at West Suffolk College are vital in retaining a young working population.

“I want to flag up the issue. A lot is said about Bury's heritage and preserving that culture is upmost in our thoughts. But we must make sure we are not alienating young people.”

Luke Brown, of County Upper School in Bury, said: “There are bigger and better things to do out there than stay in Bury all your life. I think I would rather live in a city because there's more to do.”

Fellow County Upper student Gema Delaney, said: “I would probably want to go away but come back again. If I did go away I would probably come back. There's just a cinema really and a bowling alley.”

Sarah Green, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “It is always a concern - we want this town to be for everybody. We can understand why this town is attractive, particularly for the older generation.

“But we want it to be vibrant for the younger people and we certainly don't want the town to be mothballed. We want it to be a town for young people to enjoy.”

More recent figures than the Census results of 2001 are not held by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

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