While town retail given clean bill of health, chief warns:

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THE RETAIL chief for Bury St Edmunds has warned that shops are starting to suffer and that increased parking charges are damaging trade.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bid4Bury was speaking after latest figures showed the town was performing well in terms of the number of empty shops, something he said he wants to make sure does not slide.

Figures from St Edmundsbury Borough Council this week showed Bury’s vacant shops rate is 6.9 per cent, compared to a national level of 12.7 per cent, with the town deemed ‘healthy’ by the Association of Town Centre Management.

Mr Cordell said: “The retail sector in Bury robustly withstood the initial onset of the recession but is now starting to suffer.

“The 6.9% vacancy rate in Bury is still well below the national average but we must not be complacent.

“In the part of the Buttermarket that adjoins Brentgovel Street, there are a number of shop vacancies and I want to work with the landlords, councils and prospective new businesses to get these units filled asap.

“I also think we need to review the cost of parking as I consistently get feedback from businesses and shoppers alike that the recent increases, introduced in April are adversely affecting trading.”

The Officer’s Club and Stead and Simpson are among the shops that have already closed. Mothercare is set to join them, and the former Next store is only on a temporary lease to the YMCA.

Cllr Robert Everitt, chairman of the Bury Area Working Party, agreed that the area looked ‘shabby’ and in need of improvement, while parking charges, he said, were reviewed annually.

“We have a retail offer in Bury worthy of a small parking charge. The likes of Cam-bridge, Colchester, Norwich all charge considerably higher than what we do,” Cllr Everitt said.

He welcomed the vacancy rate as positive news.

“You have to work hard at being lucky and I think St Edmundsbury has worked hard for years to create the success that Bury is.

“All the Doubting Thomases who thought that the arc development would kill the town have been proven wrong.”