READERS’ LETTERS: From the Bury Free Press of Friday, October 23

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A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, October 23.

WE NEED MORE CAR PARKING SPACES IN TOWN CENTRE

Is it just me, or do the decision-makers for the future of Bury St Edmunds simply not get it?

I only moved here in 2008, so I’m still a comparative ‘newbie’ – but since I’ve been here there’s been the new development of shops in the arc and an explosion of eating and drinking establishments in and around the town centre. Since the establishment of the BID team, now known as Our Bury St Edmunds, Mark Cordell has worked wonders on a pretty tight budget and we regularly read of yet further increases in footfall. The town has an enviable reputation for providing a great mix of independent shops, larger retailers and a thriving market two days a week –not to mention the increasing number of ‘festivals’. It’s also been a major part of their development plan to attract shoppers and other visitors to Bury, rather than Cambridge or Ipswich – and almost all of these come by car.

All of this has been of great economic benefit to ‘our’ town (I count myself among that number, even though I live in Thurston) – so what to do the planners plan? A package of measures which could spell disaster for the retail community. They admit to an estimated shortfall of 100 car parking spaces now at ‘peak times’ (ie market days) which is expected to rise to 500 by 2035 (really? I’d be surprised if it takes that long with the thousands of new homes planned for the area). So, instead of creating new spaces near the centre, where they are desperately needed, they plan to ban all-day parking in the multi-storey on Saturdays, increase tariffs for all cars parks for stays of three hours or more – all in an effort to ‘persuade’ longer-term visitors to use Ram Meadow car park.

Don’t they realise that this will simply act as a deterrent to shoppers or visitors who stay longer than three hours? Why would they want to do this? Are ‘all-day’ shoppers/visitors not welcome? As a pensioner, I only venture into the town centre a couple of times a month and usually browse the market, have lunch and make a bit of a day of it. I’m not disabled but can’t walk very far and I certainly do not want to walk uphill all the way from Ram Meadow to the town centre, nor carry my shopping all the way back again.

Surely we need to hang out the ‘Welcome’ sign – not drive shoppers and visitors away. What is needed is another decent-sized multi-storey car park somewhere near the town centre – ideally along Parkway (it was a missed opportunity not to have provided a multi over the old Cattle Market site). This should provide at least 500 spaces, so that shoppers and visitors can get within easy walking distance of the shops and the ‘Medieval Grid’. Surely we want them to simply enjoy coming to Bury St Edmunds and spending time (and some money) here – not made to feel they’re a nuisance to be hurried out of town as quickly as possible – or to be banished to the ‘outer regions’ and fight their way in and out. And don’t talk about buses – with the best will in the world, it’s hopeless to rely on local buses to provide a decent service for the whole catchment area around Bury.

Wake up, planners! What’s the point of investing heavily to obtain all the hard-won economic improvements Bury has seen over the past few years, only to risk it all on a foolhardy idea that cars must be prevented reaching the very area they are intending to spend time and money in? Time to think about how to attract visitors to our town, not how to make life more difficult for them and risk the livelihood of many of our retailers.

-- John Bottle, Thurston

WE’D WELCOME IMPROVEMENTS TO SKINNER STREET

With reference to Simon Harding’s letter on Skinner Street (Bury Free Press, October 16), we, at Saffron

Launderers & Dry Cleaners, would like to ask to whom he is referring when he claims a ‘selfish minority’ is preventing his visionary conversion of Skinner Street into a ‘gem’. It certainly isn’t the people who work in the shops and businesses that back on to the street, who, far from being ‘determined to keep the street a slum’, positively value it and would welcome any proposal for improvements.

While Skinner Street is important in itself as part of Bury’s historic centre, it also provides valuable access. Our ‘backdoor’ on to the street is a short cut back into the shop; it allows us a breath of fresh air on hot summer days; it enables council refuse collection and, when the street is not blocked by scaffolding (and, yes, businesses actually have suffered as a result of the Cuppola fire), it provides access for deliveries and collections (thus avoiding congestion in The Traverse and Buttermarket) and, if there were to be a fire in our shop, it would provide us with an escape route. We appreciate all these things and care about Skinner Street. It is insulting and offensive to claim that we ‘seem determined to keep the street a slum’ On the contrary, it is not a slum and we hope it never becomes one.

-- Saffron Launderers & Dry Cleaners, The Traverse

WIDEN PROPOSAL TO TAKE IN THE ARC

With regard to Mr Harding’s letter, and his excellent suggestion to brighten up parts of Skinner Street.

That idea could be taken further, the dull grey walls of some of the shops in the arc, that back on to St Andrew’s Street North, add to the blandness and uninteresting street view of that part of town.

Maybe art students from our schools could get involved and paint murals on the walls, or like the door of the Abbey Gardens Park keeper’s office, some colourful posters of local scenes could be put up?

Bury St Edmunds is such a lovely town, but there is always room for improvement!

-- Lesley Bishop, via email

FORTY SPACES LOST TO RESIDENTS

We read with interest your recent article on the loss of car parking spaces on the south side of town (Bury Free Press, October 9), and sympathise with the concerns expressed by representatives of both St Mary’s Church and the Theatre Royal.

We were, however extremely surprised by the remarkable ‘spin’ applied to the comments by the ‘council spokesman’ on this issue.

The council ‘confirmed it has secured 40 spaces for pay and display parking at weekends at the former Shire Hall complex car park’.

The fact is that when the council sold off the Manor House car park and associated buildings, it negotiated, with the developer who bought it, to acquire 40 car parking spaces on the Shire Hall site which it had sold to the same developer.

So the council owned those 40 spaces, and the elected councillor for the area (at that time) was informed that those spaces would be made available for local residents and visitors’ use.

Our elected councillor passed that information to our organisation – the Southgate Area residents Association (SAA).

When the Manor House car park was closed (December, 2014) and the issue of the 40 spaces was raised, we were informed that the council had disposed of those spaces to Greene King.

We have asked, both verbally and in writing, who approved and signed off this deal, but have been unable to get a response.

Now, the council have been able to ‘secure the 40 spaces’ which they owned, and are making it available for weekend only use, while Greene King retains the weekday usage. These are the same 40 spaces promised to local residents.

It is interesting to note that Greene King has received planning permission for development of a parcel of land behind Westgate Street, and are currently looking to (or have now) dispose(d) of that land, which included staff car parking facilities.

Presumably, they no longer need that land, having acquired the 40 spaces from the council.

In the final paragraph of the article, you quote a council spokesman saying: “We are aware of the shortage of parking provision in the south of the town, but given that this is in the heart of the Medieval Grid, our options are limited.”

So why did they sell off the Manor House car park?

What consultation took place with the people who live in the south of the town, before so much was sold off ?

The answer is ‘none’, but of course the people who perpetrated the act do not live there, and do not have to live with the consequences.

A little intelligent foresight would have been able to see that by demolishing the existing redundant and decaying buildings, it would have been easy to create a sizeable car park on the Manor House car park site, and alleviate these parking problems that face all the local residents and visitors to this important part of Bury St Edmunds.

-- Southgate Area residents Association

FOOTNOTE – St Edmundsbury Borough Council gave this statement: “The Swan Lane car park was previously owned by Suffolk County Council and was sold to a private owner who leased the car back to St Edmundsbury Borough Council before eventually giving the authority notice to quit. Under the terms of the lease, the private owner of Swan Lane car park was obligated to provide the 40 spaces lost at Swan Lane at a nearby alternative car park. These spaces have been provided at Shire Hall Car Park – a car park that the borough council has never owned and was ran as a private car park by the owner.

The owner of the Shire Hall Car Park had retained control for weekend car parking on these 40 spaces up until last month and the council is now taking weekend responsibility for those 40 spaces over the next few weeks. The council has leased the 40 spaces during the week to one of our major employers in the town as part of the council’s core commitment to economic growth.”

RECORDS WERE KEPT SAFELY

I have just read an article (Bury Free Press, October 9) regarding the history of Ixworth Middle School and items of importance being ‘unceremoniously dumped’ into a skip, and to put it blunty I have never read such a load of rubbish. The school librarian kept photo albums recording the school’s activities and achievements from around the late 1970s up to 2004, when the school received a modest modernisation programme. As caretaker at the school (since 1993) I moved said albums into my office. During the work we discoverd a wooden box in storage cupboards which contained photos, litho plates and old school magazines.

These articles, along with some artefacts found during the excavation for the bypass, have been in my care since then until the school closure in July 2014. I personally handed them to a representative of Ixworth History Group along with a collection of trophies, which were later displayed in the village library.

-- Roger Wakelin, Ixworth

NO SPECIAL TREATMENT

No law-abiding person supports the robbery of lead from church roofs. But local MPs James Cartlidge and Mathew Hancock, a Government minister, want to make a special case and provide public funds in compensation.

Really? They’re content to see ‘savings’ in spending made from closing local courts, hospital beds, limiting access to legal aid, withdrawing cancer treating drugs, reducing police numbers, and cutting in-work benefits for low paid families with children. And their political backers at Suffolk County Council are busy cutting buses and community transport services run by volunteers.

Yes, we must value our built heritage – and not only churches. But privileging buildings – of a single, immensely wealthy institution – over human suffering, injustice, protection of the weak and help for the poorest, forms no part of any compassionate Christian creed that I’m familiar with.

-- Jane Basham, Vice-chair, South Suffolk Labour Party

CUTS WILL HIT CHILDREN

The proposed tax credit cuts are a cut too far. They will hit the children who are the innocents in this world – that cannot be right. I will not be affected personally but I am aware of people who will be.

Many people involved are part of that ‘hard working’ group that the Prime Minister has said he wants to help and now is the time to show the voters that he meant what he said.

-- Anthony Bird, Thetford

Email letters to letters@buryfreepress.co.uk or by post to: Letters, Bury Free Press, King’s Road, Bury St Edmunds IP33 3ET.