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David helps Suffolk local businesses to thrive and grow in a competitive economy. That means better jobs for our young people
Do we want, or need, new businesses coming to Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket? And if we do, will our roads and interchanges be up to it?
These were two of the big questions raised at a high level summit that I called with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) in Bury St Edmunds. This followed my outrage that this large government quango, for which we pay millions of pounds a year through our taxes, did not appear to have even heard of the A14 stretch from Bury St Edmunds to Stowmarket area over the last five years.
Frankly, we have been overlooked. EEDA has produced endless initiatives and loads of grants for its favourite areas in the Eastern Region – Lowestoft, Ipswich, Luton – but not West and Mid Suffolk!
To give him his due, Richard Ellis, Chairman of EEDA, was good enough to admit, first of all to a packed meeting with the Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce and then later at a round table discussion with John Griffiths, Leader of the Council, that EEDA could do a lot more for Bury St Edmunds. And Stowmarket too.
Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket want to maintain their unique character. We all agree on that. We do not want to become business boom towns with all the problems that brings. But we DO want good quality, high value new jobs in our area so that we can make sure energetic and talented people of all ages stay in our town rather than commute elsewhere.
That is why in the case of Bury the local Council and myself and the Chamber of Commerce have agreed we need an incubation centre in the town area. That is, a small business park for young and developing businesses – the businesses that drive future prosperity and local wealth. EEDA announced at the meeting that they would be able to get private investors, who have not looked at financing such a proposal before, to Bury St Edmunds. So that is a new positive move in the right direction. That would benefit the Stowmarket area too, easily accessible as it is down the A14.
But the sixty four thousand dollar question is, of course, will any such new businesses be able to get around Bury St Edmunds? Just look at the way our interchanges and roundabouts are congested at certain peak times of the day. This shows the town will have problems unless some action is taken.
EEDA agreed with me that the answer lies in getting a Park and Ride for Bury St Edmunds. It has worked in Ipswich and Cambridge. When Bury St Edmunds has a multiplex and redeveloped Cattle Market we cannot expect every single person who wants to drive into the town with a car to drive in. We need better buses and a Park and Ride. We also need the Highways Agency to look at easing the pressure around Bury St Edmunds down the A14. EEDA promised to help us.
I am not a fan of ‘talking shops’. But the business summit with EEDA did come up with answers. We can bring new wealth-creating businesses into our part of West and Mid Suffolk – without changing our character. Or increasing the congestion!
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