What are the issues and options for the Bury St Edmunds MAP

As part of the preparation of the draft Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan (MAP), analysis of the town centre was undertaken including a review of existing studies, proposals, and policy documents. An engagement and consultation exercise was also undertaken by the borough council and its partners. This was a two-stage process initially targeted at stakeholders including residents associations, businesses and community groups. An Issues and Options report was then prepared which was subject to a second stage of consultation and engagement. In total over 1,100 responses and close to 6000 comments were submitted at this stage.

The Issues and Options consultation asked residents, visitors, workers and students whether they agreed with eight key objectives that had been developed from the town centre analysis and initial consultation. These objectives, have shaped the development of the draft MAP (this stage) and are:

Objective 1: Accommodating and supporting growth

Capitalising on Bury St Edmunds’ status as the sub-regional centre for west Suffolk through supporting the continued growth of the economy; offering a town rich with employment and retail opportunities, green and blue open spaces (rivers and waterways) and historic and cultural assets. 89% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 2: Maintaining a strong, historic heart for Bury St Edmunds

Recognising that Bury St Edmunds serves a wider catchment than the town itself, it is important that Bury continues to serve as a destination for visitors and tourists owing to its important heritage assets and character. 97% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 3: Identifying an arc of opportunity

Recognising and acting upon opportunities presented by key development sites that adjoin the town centre. 78% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 4: Supporting thriving mixed-use neighbourhoods

Maintaining a mix of uses in those areas principally residential in character, to support those living in the town centre. 89% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 5: Providing welcoming gateways and approaches

To identify opportunities for enhancing the experience of arriving in Bury St Edmunds and address the impression of disconnection between different locations. 88% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 6: Encouraging vibrant, well-designed streets and spaces

Improving the attractiveness of streets and spaces within the town centre. 77% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 7: Managing and enabling accessibility for all

Promoting sustainable modes of transport and ensuring that all uses across the town are easily accessible by users of all types of mobility. 96%, of respondents agreed with this objective.

Objective 8: Capitalising on green and blue spaces

Enhance access to and the quality of the green and blue edges to the town centre, recognising the leisure and health benefits which green infrastructure can provide. 97% of respondents agreed with this objective.

Overall, the top ten suggestions for improvement in the town centre (by number) 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 & Ride or similar provision
  7. Increase provision of 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.

Looking at all the responses received through the public consultation they can summarised and grouped under three main themes – movement in and around the town centre; activities that go on in the town centre; and the character and appearance of the town centre - what sort of place it should be.

The most mentioned issues (problems) and options (suggestions by the public to tackle them) to the Issues and Options consultation are summarised below.

Movement issues and options

Issues and options put forward in the consultation responses fall into three main categories – pedestrians and cyclists, public transport, and parking and vehicle access.

Pedestrians and cyclists

Issues Unsafe and unclear pedestrian and cycle access, conflict between cars and pedestrians/cyclists, accessibility issues for people with mobility difficulties.
Options Increasing safety and ease of access through providing more pedestrian areas in the town centre and improvements to existing routes, including cycle lanes and walkways and the link between the arc shopping centre and the established town. Improving convenience through better signage and increased cycle parking. Removing obstacles to accessibility including street furniture and A-board signs.

Public transport

Issues Poor links between key locations and lack of public transport options.
Options Improved links between key locations in the town, such as the railway station and Ram Meadow Car Park by providing safer and clearer routes. Options include providing a ‘hopper’ bus and a Park and Ride or similar facility.  Increased access to, from and around the town centre by bus, including improved information.

Parking and vehicle access

Issues Widespread illegal parking, lack of choice over long stay/ short stay options, Insufficient parking provision, cost of parking and road layout.
Options Review parking charges; improve enforcement especially on-street; introduce pay on exit parking; provide free parking for first half hour; enhance existing provision to make it more attractive; and consider provision of more parking to serve the town. Improve highway infrastructure to enable traffic to get in, out and around the town centre.

Activity issues and options

Activity Issues and options put forward in the consultation responses fall into three main categories – Housing in the town centre, Retail and leisure, and Community and the arts.

Housing in the town centre

Issues Lack of affordable housing in the town centre, concerns about unsympathetic development, parking and demand on local facilities associated with new residential development.
Options Provide mixed-use development such as retail and community facilities with housing, to include affordable homes in all developments; provide well-designed housing for mixed generations and utilise spaces above shops. Make sure new housing includes consideration for parking.

Retail and leisure

Issues Concerns about becoming a generic town centre indistinguishable from others, need to retain the town as a destination for shoppers, improvements needed to social spaces and leisure provision.
Options Increase and encourage key retailers as well as a focus on independent traders which are special to Bury St Edmunds. Increase cultural, leisure and sports activities, venues and events in the town including those for children/ young people.  Encourage more café space and outdoor seating.

Community and the arts

Issues Inadequate visitor information, lack of display space for local artists and few community-focussed venues.
Options Increase access to and information about community spaces in and around the town centre; increased health provision including a drop-in centre; ensure appropriate facilities are available for residents; increase provision of arts venues and facilities; improve visitor experience through information (for example an app) and signs.

Place issues and options

Place Issues and options put forward in the consultation responses fall into three main categories – Heritage and design, Places and spaces, Environment and management.

Heritage and design

Issues The town does not celebrate its heritage enough, buildings can be left empty, maintenance and preservation is vitally important
Options Improve and increase the museum offer, increase heritage-led community celebrations, ensure historic buildings are used and open to the public, ensure new development is sympathetic to the historic context and prioritise maintenance and preservation.

Places and spaces

Issues Surfaces of walkways and public spaces in poor repair, few green/peaceful spaces in the town centre apart from Abbey Gardens, rivers/water meadows areas little known and not always accessible.
Options Walkway improvements and repairs using appropriate materials, increased green/peaceful spaces throughout the town centre, improved publicity of and access to rivers and water meadows areas.

Environment and management

Issues Inadequate seating and places to meet throughout the town centre, lack of clear and appropriate lighting, signage and information, litter, preference for centrally located toilets, desire for more greenery.
Options Increased seating and social meeting places, centrally located toilets, more and well located litter bins, more trees and planting and improved, coordinated and accessible signage and lighting.
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