Mother knows best, goes the old saying and, reluctantly, I have to concede that it is often true.
In March 2013 I wrote about my mum’s verdict of the area of the Cornhill which used to be home to Woolworths. At that time she described it as ‘tatty’, and I was forced to agree with her.
However, 18 months on, I am unhappy to say that the situation is not only unimproved but could, I fear, deteriorate further in the coming months.
A quick look around the area last Wednesday taught me the following:
n The YMCA charity shop has moved out, leaving the former Next premises unoccupied
n The empty Officer’s Club shop is looking increasingly neglected
n Mothercare is closing down later this month, which will leave a third large retail unit vacant.
All of the above must be frustrating for Oxfam, Greggs and Greenwoods, which have bright and welcoming facades shining out like beacons in what is otherwise a depressing patch of the town centre.
It is also frustrating for Mark Cordell, chief executive of town centre business group ourburystedmunds. Last week I bumped into him at an event celebrating the 25th birthday of Javelin, one of the town’s successful independent retailers, and mentioned the Cornhill.
When Mark joined the organisation just over three years ago he pledged to improve the area – in fact he recalls his first media photo-call on Cornhill when he spoke of his eagerness to smarten up the area. His current frustration centres around the slow progress made thus far.
However, his ideas could have a positive impact. He has been working with landlords to attract new retailers and smarten the appearance of some of the existing empty premises. He has also spoken to St Edmundsbury Borough Council about changing the overall landscaping of the area. He would like to see that end of the Cornhill transformed into a hub for town centre activity, thereby increasing footfall. New landscaping could include removing existing seating areas or moving the market.
I agree with Mark that there is the potential to create a worthy gateway to the excellent independent retail areas of St John’s Street and Risbygate Street. But what do readers think? Would moving the market and seating be a disastrous idea, or could it offer the flexibility to completely overhaul an unwelcoming corner?