More than 5,000 comments made over future of Bury St Edmunds town centre published online

More than 5,000 individual comments, made in response to public engagement on the future of Bury St Edmunds town centre, have now been published online.

Earlier this year, residents, town centre workers, shoppers, students and visitors were all asked to give their views on the issues that face Bury St Edmunds town centre both now and in the future, and how they may be addressed. This was the first stage of developing a masterplan for the town centre.

The aims of the masterplan are to ensure that the town centre is equipped to accommodate and co-ordinate the future growth not just of Bury St Edmunds but of the wider local area that it serves, so that it continues to be successful at meeting the needs of residents and visitors by providing a strong mix of retail, culture, leisure and social activity. The masterplan will also set the guidelines and framework for future development in the town centre so it is accomplished in a joined up approach that is based on what the town wants and needs.

A mass public engagement exercise was held to encourage people to give their views which could then be considered when the draft town centre masterplan is shaped. The outcome saw 1,143 people and community-based groups and organisations take part in a Bury St Edmunds survey. Those surveys have now been collated and the suggestions recorded.

The top three issues highlighted by those who took part in the survey were the need to:

  • Preserve the unique local identity and character of the town centre (76%)
  • Preserve and enhance the historic buildings and spaces (68%)
  • Improve the links between the Arc Shopping Centre and the old town centre (55%)

People were also asked what they would like to see more of in the town centre and the following ranked as the most popular:

  • Independent shops (80%)
  • Cultural events and facilities (54%)
  • Independent cafes and restaurants (45%)

When it came to housing, the majority (58%) said they would like to see housing that is affordable – although 15% said they would prefer to see no more town centre housing at all.

Less than half (47%)  want more car parking but 60 per cent did call for more attractive pedestrian and cycle routes in and around the town centre and just under three quarters (71%) said they would like improved access to green and open spaces.

The questionnaire included white boxes which offered a chance for people to write in more detail. In total 5,857 suggestions for improvements across the town centre were made. The top 10 reoccurring suggestions called for:

  • More seating and social meeting areas
  • Pedestrianisation of parts of the town centre
  • Better routes for cyclists and pedestrians into and around the town
  • Better pavements
  • More planters, trees and floral displays
  • Park and ride or similar facility
  • More toilets
  • More bins
  • A better bus service
  • Improved pedestrian safety

Last week members of the working group joined people with a range of disabilities for a tour of the town centre. The aim of the tour was to listen to and better understand the accessibility issues that they face as they move around the town centre. The feedback from that tour, alongside the comments received in the issues and options questionnaire are now being used to shape the draft masterplan that comes forward.

Councillor Alaric Pugh, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan Working Group said: “The future of the town centre is being co-produced by all that have taken part in this engagement so far, and who take part in the next stage.

“The masterplan is about recognising change, population growth, new demands, new technologies and understanding how we keep our town successful amid all these things while at the same time looking at what we must keep, what we value, the town’s identity and what we need to take forward with us and do our best to preserve as we deal with the challenges ahead.

“I would like to say a big thank you to all who have taken part so far by filling in the issues and options questionnaire. Work is now underway on the draft masterplan which will incorporate the comments and views that we have received. There will be more news on how you can have your say on the draft masterplan in the coming weeks so watch this space.”

A report to next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting including an appendix with all comments made can be found at

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