Found out on Friday that the Council have given the historic Corn Exchange to Wetherspoons. I have penned the following letter to the local paper which I fully expect not to be printed.
Like the majority of Bury St Edmunds, my heart sank when I read about the Wetherspoons decision. What is most painful is that it was made for supposedly sound financial reasons. Yes, this will boost the coffers of St Edmundsbury Council by a few grand per annum, even after the pavements have been cleared of the evenings’ excesses. But it will cost other public bodies and the taxpayer a whole lot more: Suffolk County Council will be shelling out for extra policing; NHS Suffolk will be patching up the brawlers; the Ministry of Justice stumping up for court appearances, legal aid and so on. On top of this, there be empty shops where independent cafes and pubs once stood.
I travel widely and Bury’s `brand’ is fantastic with its charming streets, its Abbey Gardens and incredibly safe atmosphere. You mess with this at your peril. And you do not put down-market propositions like Wetherspoons bang in the middle of your offer. Image matters. Contrary to Councillor Mildmay-West I do do not believe a typical visitor to Bury rings Tourist Information ahead to check if we have a Wetherspoons. Can you imagine it - `No Wetherspoons? Never mind dear, we’ll have to go to Ipswich or Newmarket if we want to get fed and plastered for a fiver’… Sorry, Councillor, but your claims don’t ring true. By contrast, I think our typical visitors will go elsewhere when an air of boozed-up menace replaces Bury’s once peaceful, unique atmosphere. Another big mistake by a Council that has lost the plot. How many more can we afford?
Councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips
Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Hardwick Division