Owners block empty shop art

Empty shops in Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds
Empty shops in Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds

A county councillor behind the push to brighten Bury St Edmunds’ empty shopfronts has hit out unresponsive owners.

Mark Ereira, the Green Party’s leader on Suffolk County Council and a councillor for Bury’s town centre, put £1,700 of his locality budget into an art project for empty shops’ windows. He also helped set up a town centre group as well as having applied for Lottery funding for a ‘creative hub’ using empty premises.

But he said: “I’m disappointed that even local property owners are not responding.

“West Suffolk College students have enough artwork ready to put in four shops. But we need some heart coming from the people who own these shops.

“We need the private sector to buy in. A lot of people in the private sector are good a criticising public bodies — ‘the council should do something’ — but we need them to do something, too.”

He said several town centre organisations had tried to get landlords involved. He added: “Nobody has been able to liaise with those key owners who are keeping shops empty.

“We’re all doing something here — it’s about making sure a market town is attractive. We shouldn’t have 10 or 12 key shops empty.”

He has applied to the Big Lottery Fund to finance what he calls ‘Bury’s Big Society Creative Hub’.

The application says: “Different groups will propose installations/displays for use in empty spaces and shops. A central hub/community cafe will be created.”

He will find out in August if it has been shortlisted and hopes the town’s Magna Carta link will help with the 800th anniversary in 2014.