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Mid Suffolk District Council to create £1.5m fund to enhance Stowmarket town centre





A council is set to create a £1.5m fund to enhance a town centre in Suffolk.

The Stowmarket Town Centre Gateway Fund has been made possible due to Mid Suffolk District Council’s income from its investment in the Gateway 14 business park which is taking shape on the outskirts of the town.

More than 1,600 jobs have already been created there as the initiative aims to bring new attractions to the town centre giving people extra reasons to visit and creating a more resilient mixed-use future.

Mid Suffolk District Council is set to create a £1.5m fund to enhance Stowmarket town centre. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council
Mid Suffolk District Council is set to create a £1.5m fund to enhance Stowmarket town centre. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council

Any profits from the town centre initiative would be reinvested into the scheme.

Cllr Richard Winch, cabinet member for housing and property, said: “This shows the positive impact Gateway 14 is having, not just creating skilled jobs and new opportunities on the business park itself, but providing significant income to reinvest in Stowmarket.”

“We are proud of Stowmarket and want to do all we can to help the town centre thrive.

Cllr Richard Winch. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Richard Winch. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council

“It is the beating heart of our community and important for the entire district – not just the town itself.

“This fund presents a fantastic opportunity to do something new and stimulate investment.”

According to the council, the first step of the initiative would be working with landlords to bring under-utilised properties, including empty shops, back into use.

Cllr Teresa Davis. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Teresa Davis. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council

Potential occupiers wanting a town centre presence would then be supported to find a location – opening the door for new businesses, pop-ups and other ventures looking to launch their first store or space.

The types of use that would be encouraged include arts and cultural experiences, tourism, community activities, retail, food and drink, small business workspaces, leisure and activities that bring something new to Stowmarket.

A report outlining the proposals will go to Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet on July 15 and if the new fund is agreed, it will go to full council for approval later in the month.

The town’s high street unit vacancy rate of 8 per cent outperforms the East of England average, which is 12.5 per cent.

Cllr Colin Lay. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Colin Lay. Picture: Mid Suffolk District Council

Cllr Winch said: “All town centres face challenges, including from the huge growth in online shopping, and are having to reinvent themselves.

“No single organisation has all the answers, but by working with partners in Stowmarket, we are confident we can help create exciting new opportunities that support a sustainable and vibrant future.”

Mid Suffolk will work alongside key partners such as Stowmarket Town Council, private sector owners, businesses and potential occupiers to find long-term solutions.

Cllr Teresa Davis, cabinet member for thriving communities, said: “Stowmarket is growing well and, with time, the right ingredients can further enhance it as a place to live, work and visit.

“This £1.5 million fund is just one of those ingredients, and I look forward to seeing the impact it can have.”

Cllr Colin Lay, lead member for Stowmarket, added: “We want to increase opportunities for innovation and creativity.

“Things like art and cultural experiences, pop-ups, shop front improvements, kick-starting local business concepts and the evening economy.

“We want to see uses that are complementary to what the town already offers.”

Elsewhere in the town, the council is investing in new sporting facilities on land surrounding Stowmarket High School and Chilton Fields, while the redevelopment of the former Middle School into 44 affordable homes is also nearing completion.

An £18m Skills and Innovation Centre is also in the pipeline.