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A heartfelt plea from a town business chief plus opinions on plans for a new cinema were among the items in this week's mailbox.

CHALLENGING TIME FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

The past two years have been extremely challenging for businesses across the country and this is no different in Bury St Edmunds, where lockdowns, tiers, restrictions and quarantine periods have changed the landscape considerably in regards of what our members have to deal with.

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Last summer the country reopened and things started to get back to normal but then as we approached Christmas some restrictions started to be imposed and having got through this our businesses are having to deal with staff shortages and short term self-isolation knowing that on the horizon vat and business rates will increase, as will utility bills, transportation costs and the costs of goods and that’s without any mention of the impact of Brexit.

So all in all the here and now continues to create challenges and to be honest any light at the end of the tunnel seems quite a way away.

Our businesses have done so well to stay trading and this is not in any small part due to the great support they receive from the local community but unfortunately I am starting to hear of incidents where customers are not being as understanding or tolerant of the impact of all of these issues, as they might, which is disappointing.

Currently we are aware of over 40 vacancies held by our members (over 400 businesses) and which are listed on the Our Bury St Edmunds website.

Retention and recruiting of staff is of paramount importance but when they are having to deal with intolerant and angry customers I can’t blame them for wondering whether they want to remain in the retail or hospitality sectors.

There is no way all of these costs can be absorbed by local Independent businesses and some will have to be passed on to customers. Our businesses won’t want to do this as they are so appreciative of the loyalty of their customers but they have a responsibility and duty of care for their employees and they won’t want the quality of the goods or services they provide to drop.

On their behalf I would ask customers to bear all of the above in mind, realise and appreciate that running a business today has never been more challenging, be prepared that it may take a little longer to be served than was previously the case.

Realise that expecting a discount at this time is unrealistic unless this is openly offered by the business.

Also please recognise the long term harm that can be caused to a business by a negative review or an angry social media post and an understanding of the challenges facing our businesses, would be much appreciated.

Despite all of the above, Bury St Edmunds town centre continues to thrive, with many new businesses looking to open in the town. The number of Independent businesses has increased over the past year or so to the extent that nearly 60% of our businesses are Independents.

Our reputation as the foodie capital of Suffolk continues to grow, we are home to the only Michelin Star restaurant in Suffolk and over 20% of the businesses in Bury sell food or drink.

There is so much for us to be grateful of and Bury St Edmunds is the envy of many towns both locally and nationally. At this difficult time, I would ask that we all recognise the difficulties our businesses are facing and be understanding and tolerant and realise that in the short term prices will undoubtedly increase and their service might take a little longer but please be assured that all their staff are trying to do their very best for their customers, who, they are very appreciative of your continued support.”

Mark Cordell, Chief Executive, Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District

STORE SHOULD BE PUT TO A BETTER USE

The news that the Debenhams building might be used for an Everyman Cinema came as a great surprise.

We have two cinemas already. They already provide for a wide range of clientele. Rather than building a very expensive hub out of town for the relocation of the library and the police station, the Debenhams building would be a much better solution.

The centre of Bury St Edmunds should not lose a library that is a key part of many people’s lives and is free for people to use. It should not be a bus ride, a long walk or a car journey away.

Jennie Francis, via email

-- Having read your article on the proposed development of Debenhams into a third Cinema, I had to check the date, Thought it was 1st April.

What a bonkers idea.

Why not develop a go-kart track or ice ring in the site, or let’s have a bus service that runs after 6pm to encourage people into town in safety.

We already have 10 screens in the town, just pointless to add more, were a town not a city.

Tony Mildinhall, via email

-- Why on earth would Bury need yet another cinema when we already have a modern multiplex and an old-style cinema catering for a more nostalgic outing?

And while on the subject of making use of the now vacant ex-Debenhams building, the last thing we need is somewhere else to eat.

Andrew Gilmour’s suggestion to divide the floor space into small start-up businesses sounds good, and I would also like to see some of the space devoted to antiques and bric a brac on the lines of Risby Barnes which in some way, would make up for the loss of the emporium in ‘the horseshoe’ area. Endless possibilities and great potential waiting to be ‘kick started’ here.

Brian Davies, Bury St Edmunds

WONDERFUL MANSION IN STATE OF DISREPAIR

On a sunlit winter’s morning, on a train from Stowmarket to Ipswich and looking out of the train windows. Speeding through Needham Market. In the near distance Bosmere Hall and memories of an open topped sports car often being driven up the hill towards the house. Then, above the tree lines in the distance the tower of Shrubland Hall, in a prominent position above the Gipping Valley,

A fine and stunning mansion, built in the Italian style by Sir Charles Barry in 1851, surrounded by a large park. A Suffolk treasure I have visited at least twice in past years, the fine gardens being a particular attraction. The home of the late Lord De Saumarez, whose name lives on in the small housing development opposite the main gates.

I was therefore saddened and surprised to hear of the dilapidated state of the mansion and gardens. The hall was once also the home of a health clinic and then, for a short time, it became a hotel and restaurant, Shrubland Royale. I remember the difficulty I had trying to make a restaurant reservation a few years ago. It is now advertised as a wedding venue.

This wonderful mansion, a recognisable ‘sentinel’ of the Gipping Valley, is very likely at serious risk. What is the local planning authority, Mid Suffolk Council doing? Quite possibly nothing and waiting for the current owners to rectify matters. .

I understand that Mid Suffolk Council and Historic England are hopeful of being able to discuss the future of the hall with the owner. However. Mid Suffolk Council appears to be shying away from enforcement action because of the costs involved.

Lord De Saumarez must be violently turning in his grave in total despair. His wonderful mansion, a location for James Bond films is drastically decaying.

If the owner does not have the wherewithal to bring this terrific property back to its proper state then the authorities and conservation organisations need to take some action. This mansion, an iconic part of the landscape of the Gipping Valley would be on a par with Mentmore Towers and Blenheim, and its continual dilapidation is a real tragedy.

Owners, as well as public bodies, should never be careless of our history.

Graham Day, Stowmarket

A FAYRE DEAL – OR A DAMP SQUIB, AGAIN?

Are we going to have the Christmas Fayre restored this year? Last year’s special events had all the excitement of a damp squib.

K Apps, St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds