The proposed redevelopment of the current bus station in Sudbury is likely to be based on a leisure offer rather than a large number of shops.
This was the feedback from Sudbury Steering Group chairman Simon Barrett after a recent group meeting.
Carter Jonas and Macegreen have been appointed to come up with a master plan for the area, which is now likely to be displayed early next year.
“The likelihood is what would come back is that it’s going to be a leisure offer - cinema, restaurants, and these sorts of things and maybe some retail, that’s what’s coming forward.”
Mr Barrett said this would compliment what the town already had and not threaten existing businesses.
Babergh district councillors from the town have since met and been shown potential schemes for the site by two developers who specialise in these sorts of development to get an idea of what might be possible.
With the increase in online shopping Mr Barrett said there was now less interest from high street shops in town centre developments.
“Nothing is confirmed but there are less retailers in the market place now. There’s a change of emphasis. More people shop online and the town centre is now more of a meeting place. Ultimately the market decides what goes in.”
He added that developers had been positive about the potential of Sudbury and the possibility of a cinema in the town.
Mr Barrett singled out a new development in Thetford as an example of what could be achieved in a small market town.
Thetford’s new riverside development includes a Travelodge, restaurants and a three-screen cinema.
It is a smaller cinema like this that Mr Barrett has said he would anticipate being part of a Sudbury scheme.
Campaign group Save Our Bus Station (SOBS), which is opposed to the station being relocated to Girling Street car park, has accused Mr Barrett and the steering group of reneging on previous promises of a redevelopment including shops being built.
“This calls into question the validity of both the public consultations when Sudbury residents were clearly asked to support the movement of the bus station to Girling Street to allow for the development of shops and a cinema,” said SOBS deputy chair, Colin Whyles.
“It now seems that shops are being cut from the plans.
“We wonder how long it will be before the cinema gets quietly shelved and the millions of pounds spent acquiring land, paying for professional consultants and relocating a bus station will have all been for a few offices.”
Mr Barrett insisted the steering group had never made any guarantees.
“We have never promised anything. What we said was that if we wanted to make it viable we needed to move the bus station.”
He added that the recent meetings with developers confirmed this view.
After passing on its steer to Suffolk County Council for the relocation of the bus station to Girling Street Car Park the steering group is now moving on to look at other “blackspots” in the town, such as the area behind the town hall.
Mr Barrett said this included looking at ways to improve the Market Hill.
Other considerations included seeing a conclusion to the Belle Vue House sale and looking at car parking.
The group has come under criticism from some quarters, being described as undemocratic as members are not directly voted on by residents.
The group includes representatives from Sudbury Town, Babergh District and Suffolk County councils and representatives from local organisations including Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and Gainsborough’s House, while officers from both Babergh and the county council attend meetings when required.
Despite this, former member Jack Owen requested another town councillor be added to the group but this was rejected by members, with Mr Barrett saying it had been carefully chosen in the first place.