DAVE GOODERHAM: Future of town is in hands of traders

A personal view
A personal view

Imagine a Bury St Edmunds where there was no grand food and drink festival in the heart of the summer. No week devoted solely to our dedicated independent traders – businesses that have always been synonymous with our fine town.

No beach in the heart of Bury, no lavish Christmas lights switch-on, indeed no festive lights at all above much of the town centre.

This is no doomsday festive scenario penned by the twisted mind of a Tim Burton.

But a very real prospect in these cost-cutting times if it wasn’t for one organisation.

When Bury was looking to become a Business Improvement District (BID) five years ago, I had little idea of what one was or what it could offer.

I understand there was similar reluctance among some businesses.

But slowly almost everyone in the town centre has come on board, from the big players to those valued independents.

Understandably, it was decided that the title ‘BID’ wasn’t catchy enough and Ourburystedmunds was born.

Its list of achievements in recent times is hugely impressive but at its heart remains its members.

Whatever the organisation does isn’t because they want a pat on the back or an envious look from neighbouring towns.

It never forgets why it was set up and who its future depends on – whether it is planning how to attract thousands of visitors to our town to lobbying the council for better car parking regulations.

In November, its members will have the chance to vote Ourburystedmunds in or out. Its first five years is up and now we come to ballot time.

All members will get a chance although the slightly complicated election procedures means the ‘big boys’ of Bury must vote to ensure a further five years.

As with any election, voting is key. One must hope that businesses don’t just sit idly by – this is their chance to give a huge vote of confidence to everything Ourburystedmunds is about.

Before anyone thinks I have a vested interest in this or I am golfing buddies with Ourburystedmunds chief Mark Cordell, my only declaration is that our careers have crossed a couple of times in the past.

I value, and indeed adhere, to passion, enthusiasm and dedication in any role – something Mark has in spades.

But Mark also has steely determination to ensure Ourburystedmunds goes beyond attracting celebrity chefs and huge deckchairs.

I recently listened to his plans for the next five years, should the organisation be successful in the forthcoming election, with tourism, digital technology and making Bury even more environmentally-friendly among the priorities.

In monetary terms, an incredible £2 million extra will be spent over the next five years from membership fees if they are voted back in.

Or not. Bury town centre businesses – the choice is yours.