Mystery surrounds the cause of suspected gas leak at Bury St Edmunds shopping centre

Pic - Rich Marsham - RMG Photography - Tel : 07798 758711 'The Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds sits empty on one of the busiest shopping Saturdays of the year after a suspected gas leak in an underground car park forced police to close it. ANL-141123-202154009
Pic - Rich Marsham - RMG Photography - Tel : 07798 758711 'The Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds sits empty on one of the busiest shopping Saturdays of the year after a suspected gas leak in an underground car park forced police to close it. ANL-141123-202154009

Mystery surrounds the cause of a suspected gas leak at a Bury St Edmunds shopping centre which brought the town centre to a virtual standstill over the weekend.

The arc shopping centre was evacuated and a number of surrounding streets cordoned off on Saturday afternoon as police, fire-fighters and the National Grid rushed to investigate reports by a member of the public of a smell of gas.

Pic - Rich Marsham - RMG Photography - Tel : 07798 758711 'The Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds sits empty on one of the busiest shopping Saturdays of the year after a suspected gas leak in an underground car park forced police to close it. ANL-141123-202228009

Pic - Rich Marsham - RMG Photography - Tel : 07798 758711 'The Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds sits empty on one of the busiest shopping Saturdays of the year after a suspected gas leak in an underground car park forced police to close it. ANL-141123-202228009

Initial investigations detected a ‘gas substance’ in the underground car park but further enquires could not find any evidence of a leak and cordons were lifted at about 4.45pm.

Colin Roberts, manager of the arc, said he will continue to search for answers over the cause of the incident which was at a peak shopping time and will have left many traders counting the financial cost.

It was his day off from work on Saturday and he was first alerted to reports of the suspected leak at about noon by the duty manager.

He said: “When I arrived we were in full evacuation mode and there was a very strong smell around Prospect Row of something which appeared to be gas.”

The surrounding streets and car parks were closed to the public and residents were evacuated from the apartments above the shopping centre.

Mr Roberts said: “They did some more tests with their equipment and went one by one systematically to every single shop including The Apex which takes some time. They couldn’t find any evidence of any leak.”

He now wants to get to the bottom of what caused the incident and has thanked the emergency services and the public.

The fire service sent five vehicles to the scene while police put up a cordon and advised members of the public to avoid the town centre.

Mr Roberts added: “The emergency services all worked together and responded to it magnificently. There was a great amount of co-operation from all the parties.

“The public were absolutely marvellous. They were orderly and there was no panic.

“Public safety had to come first. If it had been a gas leak in the basement car park and there had been an explosion with all those vehicles there was a major risk.”

See Friday’s Bury Free Press newspaper for more reaction to the incident.