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Bury St Edmunds town centre recommended as a visitor destination by huge majority in survey

Bury St Edmunds town centre has received a boost after a survey found an overwhelming majority would recommend it for a visit.

The online survey of residents’ and visitors’ views about the town centre and how their use of it might have changed due to Covid-19 was commissioned by Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Our Bury St Edmunds.

Of the more than 1,100 people questioned, 91 per cent said they would recommend a visit to the town centre - 30 per cent higher than the comparative national figure.

Two of the most positive aspects of the town centre were deemed to be its physical appearance and its range of cafés/restaurants
Two of the most positive aspects of the town centre were deemed to be its physical appearance and its range of cafés/restaurants

Nearly 70 per cent endorsed the town’s restaurants and cafés, which was double the national average.

Although 57 per cent said they visited the town at least once a week, the frequency of visits had declined due to the pandemic as well as working from home and people only taking trips into town for specific purchases.

Just over half of participants praised the town’s cleanliness in the survey, carried out by researchers from People and Places, and 56 per cent spend longer than two hours on a typical visit to the town centre.

More than 60 per cent also praised the town’s physical appearance.

However, 42 per cent rated car parking as a negative aspect of Bury St Edmunds and called for ‘more, cheaper car parking’.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, said he wanted to discuss with West Suffolk Council how parking facilities opportunities can be ‘better matched to the needs of the public’.

The results of the survey, he said, provided reassurance that the town centre was appreciated by the vast majority of people.

“The town centre has been through an immensely challenging time over the last 18 months but the comments in the survey from a number wanting to support local businesses more or feeling that they took the town centre for granted before the pandemic shows that Bury St Edmunds is valued by the people who live, work and visit here,” said Mr Cordell.

“This study gives us real insight into what people think of the town including the areas where improvements need to be made.”

The fact that more new businesses were opening in the town also demonstrated that Bury was ‘on the right track’.

Addressing those still concerned about venturing into the town centre due to Covid-19, Mr Cordell said businesses were continuing to take the necessary hygiene measures.

He said: “I hope the people who feel reassured will tell their friends and family and slowly we can encourage those more reluctant to come back but for some it will take a long time and we understand that.”

A West Suffolk Council spokesman said the survey showed the authority’s investment and partnership work with the BID and other stakeholders had helped provide a safe environment for people returning to the town centre.

He said: “We welcome the survey which shows that people value the safety, cleanliness and appearance of the town centre – all things that parking helps pay toward.

“The survey also shows that the majority of people do not think that parking charges are unfair.”

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