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Bury St Edmunds former school site could be developed into 334 space public car park

A new public car park with 334 spaces could be built on a former school site in Bury St Edmunds.

M & D Developments has submitted plans to West Suffolk Council for the car park on land once occupied by St Louis Catholic Middle School and St Benedict's Lower School.

Meanwhile, the future of car parking in Bury St Edmunds is set to be decided at a council meeting next week which could include keeping the town's 'free from 3pm' scheme.

A public car park could be built on the former site of St Louis Catholic Middle School, in St Andrew's Street South, Bury St Edmunds
A public car park could be built on the former site of St Louis Catholic Middle School, in St Andrew's Street South, Bury St Edmunds

The M & D Developments car park plan follows separate proposals it has drafted for nine new houses on the remainder of the former school site, in St Andrew's Street South.

To access and exit the car park, a new right turn junction would be created off Robert Boby Way.

A design and access statement notes that in 2018 St Edmundsbury Borough Council cited the need for 485 new spaces by 2035 but due to a 10 per cent reduction in demand efforts to identify new sites 'are not being progressed'.

The 'Free from 3pm' scheme in Bury St Edmunds could be saved
The 'Free from 3pm' scheme in Bury St Edmunds could be saved

The statement said: "Although a complex issue and open to a degree of interpretation it must be accepted that the increasing vibrancy and popularity of Bury in recent years with resulting current housing growth can only increase need for additional car parking."

A conventional pay on exit system is 'likely to be a favoured option' with potential for RingGo or similar internet based systems.

The statement added: "To a large extent the finer details of the access will be determined by the views and requirements of the Highways Authority and it is not possible to respond until such matters are clarified.

"At this stage the application only provides a general overview of the proposal that will require the development of detail in conjunction with and in response to the local authority.

"This application raises some fundamental questions from which all others follow. Firstly the matter of whether Bury St Edmunds requires additional car parking or not.

"The information available appears to suggest that it does.

"The second question would be where such parking should be located.

"The statistical information suggests that the Parkway car parks are both the most favoured by visitors and the most stressed in terms of capacity.

"This area would therefore seem a logical location to add parking."

Car parking has been a hot topic in Bury St Edmunds recently after West Suffolk Council's car parking review group suggested increasing charges and axing the Our Bury St Edmunds 'free from 3pm' scheme to save an extra £80,000 a year.

Next Tuesday (February 11), the council's cabinet will consider the proposed increases as well as other recommendations.

It is recommended:

  • The 'free from 3pm' scheme on a Tuesday should continue.
  • A suggestion to extend the scheme to Wednesday mornings would cost £245,000 and 'would not be affordable'.
  • Keep the £1 charge after 6pm in Bury St Edmunds as the £154,000 income is 'important for the delivery of services within the town centre'.
  • Despite a petition, it is not proposed to introduce two free days parking in the market towns - in Bury St Edmunds such a plan would result in a loss of £1.1 million in parking income.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, said: "I'm very pleased to see the amended recommendations in regards to car parking in Bury St Edmunds with the retention of the 'free from 3pm' scheme and the current night time charge.

"I know our businesses and the public will be very pleased the council has listened to concerns and responded so promptly."

On the new car park plans, he added it was an 'interesting development' given that the council has talked about the need to increase capacity and the former school site 'seems well located to provide that additional need'.

Cllr Peter Stevens, cabinet member for operations which includes car parks, said: “We recognise that each of our town centres is unique in its offer and we’ve been listening to concerns raised in response to the review group’s recommendations.

"We are mindful of the challenges facing high streets nationally which is why we will be discussing extending business rate relief next week and why we continue to invest in our town centres.

"Car parking tariffs are a mechanism for managing demand including the availability and turnover of spaces to support the town centre economy. While demand fluctuates throughout the year, it’s robust to the extent that the 4,000 spaces we operate in Bury St Edmunds are close to capacity at Saturday lunchtimes.

"The income generated from our car parks pays towards CCTV, street cleaning, and other work to ensure our town centres are clean and safe places where people want to be.

"It pays for the maintenance and staffing of our car parks. We also pay close to £1 million of business rates on our car parks which also makes us one of the biggest contributors to the Business Improvement Districts and the work that they do to encourage town centre footfall and spend.

"Fundamentally, it is not just the price of parking that attracts people to a town centre, it is the things that the town centre has to offer including its mix of retail, cafes, restaurants, leisure and culture, heritage, markets and events including those run by the BIDs."

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