The masterplan that will help shape Bury St Edmunds town centre through to 2031 will enter its final public consultation on Monday.
Earlier this year the Town Centre Working Group and consultants David Lock Associates asked those who live, work and visit Bury for views on its ‘issues and options’ document and received 6,000 suggestions.
That has shaped a draft plan, published in an accessible graphic two-page document, and now they want your views on it by September 8, so the final plan can go before councillors in October.
Alaric Pugh, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s cabinet member for planning and growth said: “Simply keeping everything as it is now, is not an option. The reason for this is because Bury St Edmunds and the area around it, is set to see its population grow over the next decade.
“The job of the masterplan is to plan for the future to ensure success continues; that our town centre is ready for growth and can welcome people by car, public transport, bicycle or on foot.
“The challenge is to achieve this while preserving its character and heritage. We all love Bury St Edmunds town centre and that is why it is so crucial that people get engaged with the draft masterplan to help shape its future.”
Working group members stressed the plans offer ‘aspirations’ not firm proposals, which Cllr Pugh described as ‘the art of the possible’.
The initial consultation identified eight ‘character areas’ plus issues affecting the whole town centre, such as the desire for better pedestrian and cycle routes.
Working group member and town centre councillor Julia Wakelam said people often felt things in the town centre were far apart because of the lack of direct, attractive pedestrian routes.
She explained: “There’s a very ‘tight’ feel to Bury town centre. We’re hemmed in by cars – this [plan] lets the town breath out a bit and expand out.”
The Bury Free Press will be publishing the full map and aspirations for the eight areas next week.
Major ideas include pedestrianisation of Cornhill and Buttermarket along with St Andrew’s Street South to provide a better link to the arc.
Ward councillor David Nettleton said the ideas for St Andrews Street North were a good example of ‘working with an area’. The aspiration is for on-street bus bays, freeing the bus station site for shops. Buses would come up from Tayfen Road and return to Parkway via Risbygate.
The ‘Northern Gateway’ from the station via Tayfen Road should have better pedestrian and cycle access plus a more active frontage – shops are suggested.
The essential change in Parkway is to create better pedestrian and cycle routes across it.
On the other side of town the aim is to make more of the green areas around the Rivers Lark and Linnet, expending and enhancing pathways.
Ram Meadow would remain mixed use with the possibility of more parking with better pedestrian access and a shuttle bus to town.
The aim in the Churchgate area is to enhance its heritage character by improving the street scene and limiting vehicle access.
Town centre plan consultants David Lock Associates were amazed at the level of response the initial consultation received.
The company has dealt with similar projects across the country but its Matthew Lappin said: “A lot of towns and cities face similar issues but the thing that surprised me was, not so much the issues raised, but the passion and level of interest generated this time round.
“Everybody cares about where they live, but the sheer number of responses here underscores what people think about the town.”
He said the 1,100 responses, giving more than 6,000 ideas, was ‘almost unprecedented’.
The respondents ‘ top ten suggestions to improve the town were:
1 Increase places to sit and relax in the town centre including social spaces.
2. Discourage vehicles in the town centre and provide more pedestrian areas including pedestrianisation.
3. Improve the quality of public spaces and undertake maintenance and repairs.
4. Improved routes into and around the town centre for cyclists and pedestrians.
5. Enhance the environment of the town centre with additional tree planting, planters and displays
6. Park and ride or similar provision
7. More public toilets.
8. Address litter with more bins in convenient locations.
9. Improve bus provision and accessibility to/from and around Bury St Edmunds.
10. Provide safe access to and around the town centre including better pedestrian crossings.
The three main themes were identified as movement in and around the town centre, activities there and the character of the place. That is why the plan uses the acronym MAP – movement, activity, place.
Mr Lappin said people wanted to see improvement while preserving aspects of the town’s heritage.
Now say what you think of the draft plan, whether you live, work or shop in Bury St Edmunds.
The easiest way to have your say is online where the draft masterplan, including an interactive map, will be available at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/bsemasterplan from 9am on Monday (July 31).
Public engagement events offering people the chance to find out more and talk to some of the project team, will be held through August at:
Sainsbury’s, Bedingfeld Way, 10am to 7pm on the 3rd.
Bury Market, 7.30am to 4pm on the 5th
Bury Leisure Centre, 10am to 5pm on the 10th
Tesco, St Saviours Exchange, 10am to 7pm on the 11th
Bury Market, 7.30am to 4pm on the 16th
The Apex, Charter Square, 6pm to 8.30pm on the 16th
Charter Square, the arc, 9.30am - 5.30pm on the 19th
Bury Library, Sergeants Walk 10am to 5pm on the 22nd
Asda, Western Way, 10am to 7pm on the 23rd
Waitrose, Robert Boby Way, 10am to 7pm on the 24th
Bury Food and Drink Festival, The Apex, Charter Square, 10am to 4pm on the 28th
There will be permanent displays during the consultation with hard copies of the questionnaire at The Apex, West Suffolk House and Bury Leisure Centre and Library
Leaflets and contact cards with the online links will be available at: CAB Risbygate Street, Moyse’s Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds Town Council offices, The Athenaeum, Skyliner Leisure Centre, St Edmundsbury Cathedral information point and Haverhill Arts Centre.
More information will be posted on Twitter from @stesbc #bsemasterplan and Facebook at StEdmundsburynews