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The Big Stories in the Bury St Edmunds area in 2003 including the Cattle Market development, Andy's Records, the Haughley Bends and Center Parcs





The year was 2003: Concorde made its last scheduled flights, England won the Rugby World Cup final and the London congestion charging scheme came into effect.

At the cinema we were watching Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, while on the airwaves the top-selling song of the year was Black Eyed Peas with Where is the Love.

Closer to home, we have taken a look back at the Bury Free Press archives from 2003 to discover some of the biggest stories in West Suffolk 20 years ago.

Some of the big stories from the Bury Free Press of 2003. Picture: Bury Free Press archive
Some of the big stories from the Bury Free Press of 2003. Picture: Bury Free Press archive

The Cattle Market redevelopment was the big running story in Bury St Edmunds during 2003.

As plans for the major project gathered pace, the Bury Free Press ran numerous reports about the scheme and its potential effect on the historic town centre.

Readers were asked to vote for either Palmers or Debenhams to become the 'anchor store' of the new shopping centre.

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The majority of reader votes opted for long-established retailer Palmers, which already had stores in Bury, but St Edmundsbury borough councillors settled on Debenhams.

They later revealed choosing a different retailer to the national chain could have wiped £3.5 to £4.5million off the value of the redevelopment.

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Fears were voiced that St Andrew's Street could divide the town once the Cattle Market development was complete.

Poor access between the Cattle Market and existing town could act as a 'Berlin Wall', Bury Chamber of Commerce heard.

Members also heard, during a presentation from developers Centros Miller, that national chains Next and River Island were interested in the new shopping centre.

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Market day visitors to Bury were angry the Cattle Market tea bar would soon close to make way for the shopping centre redevelopment.

Frank Clark, of Beyton, said: "I've been coming to this market well over 70 years and this tea bar has been here for a good many of those years.

"I only come to Bury for the auction market. I shall not come once that's gone – they can stick it."

Gwyneth Pettitt, who ran the tea bar, said: "Several customers have been coming here for a lot of years and they feel quite strongly about this."

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It was the end of an era as Vincent's Auctioneers held its last sale on the Cattle Market in 2003, in preparation for the site to be cleared and redeveloped.

Customer Eric Kinnard said: "People have been coming here for years. It is a social gathering. I'm never going to see these people again and that is a sad thing."

Brian Holden, of the auctioneers, said: "I felt that we have been able to give the country folk a focal point – that is now going to finish and that does concern me because life isn't just about making money."

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Plans for a multiplex cinema on Parkway were finally submitted, after a long-running battle to have a complex built on the site of a car park.

Cine-UK revealed its scheme would include restaurants as well as the long-awaited multiplex, set to open in 2005.

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Child-killer Ian Huntley was handed a double life sentence for murdering Soham schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells.

Holly and Jessica's bodies were discovered along a dirt track near RAF Lakenheath in August 2002, 13 days after they went missing.

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The Pillar of Salt, on Angel Hill, underwent repairs after one of its illuminated directional signs was damaged.

The arm came off during high winds in October 2002 and was taken away for specialist repairs.

The Pillar of Salt is a listed building and was built in 1935.

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Speed cameras and a 50mph limit installed along the notorious Haughley Bends stretch of the A14 had helped to reduce deaths at the accident blackspot, it was revealed.

The number of deaths was cut by half as a result of the accident reduction zone.

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West Stow resident Andy Gray, who was behind the Andy's Record chain, spoke to the Bury Free Press after seeing his empire crumble as administrators were called in.

"I do not see a long-term future in the sale of CDs and DVDs but I guess that is just a sign of the times," said the self-made millionaire.

The fire-hit Center Parcs holiday village, in Elveden, was ready to reopen – 15 months after a devastating fire.

A new village centre had been built at a cost of around £45 million, while a further £10 refurbishment programme was undertaken during the closure.

Managing director Martin Dalby said: "The fire in April 202 was devastating and pretty frightening. The tangled wreckage of steel girders was a sorry sight.

"But we have a great team and a great team spirit and we got on to getting it sorted quickly. We wanted to surprise and delight our customers when they came back."

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Nude acts coming to Bury were branded 'disgusting and degrading' by clergy.

Theatre Royal was set to host Puppetry of the Penis, while Club Brazilia applied for licensing permission to host naked men performing with balloons.

The Rev Jonathan Ford, of Christ Church, in Lawson Place, said: "This sort of act is disgusting and degrading – it can never be called entertainment in any shape or form."

Fred Maynor, of Horringer Court Community Church, said: "This is yet another sign of the lowering of public morals."

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The Grapes pub was set to be repainted after brewers Greene King painted it a bright shade of blue.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council issued a listed building enforcement notice over the 'historically inappropriate' hue.

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Troops from the four major military bases in West Suffolk were waiting for the order to go to war as the first bombs rained down on Iraq when the conflict started.

Soldiers and airmen from Wattisham Airfield, RAF Honington, RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath were all likely to be involved in the conflict.

At home, pupils from the town's upper schools walked out of lessons at midday to take part in an anti-war protest.

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In March 2003, the Queen and Prince Philip visited RAF Honington, which had more than 600 personnel in the war zone.

She said: "My thoughts are with you all and your families and friends who wait at home for news and pray for your safe return."

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Later in the year there were tears and cuddles at RAF Mildenhall as members of the 100th Air Refueling Wing arrived home from the Mediterranean region, where they helped to fuel the aircraft used during the war on Iraq.

Wing Vice Commander Colonel Michael Crane said: "This was one of the largest refuelling operations in history. I'm awfully proud of them."

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Meanwhile, the RAF Honington-based Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Regiment returned home after months spent in Iraq.

Parents and children of around 50 troops waited with anticipation for their emotional reunions.

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Parents were consulted on plans for a new school in Bury, potentially on land near the Flying Fortress pub.

The options presented including retaining the current arrangement of pupils attending existing schools Guildhall Feoffment and Sebert Wood.

The second option was to relocate Guildhall Feoffment to a reserved site on Moreton Hall.

The final option was to build a new school on the Moreton Hall site near the Flying Fortress, to possibly open in 2005.

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MP Richard Spring gave his backing to plans to close the A11 Tuddenham junction.

Mr Spring met Highways Agency officials and viewed plans for the £30,000 scheme.

The Bury Free Press had campaigned to secure the project cash – a campaign the MP played a key role in.

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Woolworths withdrew plans to install wire mesh shutters at its town centre store after protests from conservationists.

A spokeswoman for the retailer said the shutters had been requested as an added security measure.

The Bury Society described the shutters as 'very ugly' and feared they could have a 'disfiguring effect on the town centre'.

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Nearby, work to improve the safety and appearance of the pedestrianised area outside Woolworths was completed.

The entire area was repaved, while two new planters and seats around the trees were built.

Cllr Jeremy Farthing said: "This is an important part of the town centre so it is good to see it looking smarter and better equipped for its many uses."

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Plans were submitted for a 600-seater bingo hall in Barton Road however, fears were raised the facility could increase traffic in the area.

Breckland Bingo, which was based in Hatter Street, would move to new hall if approved.

Roger Peters, operations manager, said: "We have reached the edge of what we can expand into in Hatter Street."

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Over on the west side of town, 30 staff were to lose their jobs as it was announced the Pioneer shop, in Western Way, was to close.

The Co-operative Group, which ran the store, said it had been operating at a loss.

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Plans for an IKEA distribution centre at Shepherd's Grove, Stanton, were given the green light by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, despite objections.

Residents in Great Barton had raised concerns about the impact of increased traffic along the A143.

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Prince Charles visited Bury to inspect progress on the Millennium Tower being built at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

The Prince looked around the tower, which was due to be completed in 2004.

It was the Prince's third visit to the cathedral since 1998.