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Old Market developments under way

PUBLISHED: 17:13 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 07:19 01 August 2010

EXTENSIVE works to redevelop the Old Market in Beccles are finally underway but road closures and changed bus routes are causing frustration and confusion for shoppers and business owners alike.

EXTENSIVE works to redevelop the Old Market in Beccles are finally underway but road closures and changed bus routes are causing frustration and confusion for shoppers and business owners alike.

The whole market will be closed to vehicles during the project, which is expected to last until mid June and will see half of the market place and a dozen bus spaces pedestrianised to create a space, which can be used for markets and community events.

The central island will be retained, allowing for two buses to stop and pick up with a further bus standing spot outside the public toilets. The parking spaces in the Old Market will be lost, with just three 30 minute waiting spaces available outside the Bear and Bells pub.

Vicky Wright, owner of the Bliss fashion store on the Old Market, said that the road closures have already affected trade. She said: “There's been a huge difference. There's no parking outside my shop and about 90pc of my trade comes from people passing outside, it's pretty appalling with no buses coming round here either.

“It's so noisy that I can hardly hear my phone ringing. I know in the end it's going to be gorgeous so I suppose for the moment we'll just have to put up with it and remind people that there are still businesses down here.”

Ian Hann, landlord at the Bear and Bells pub, said that lunchtime trade has been slower than usual because fewer people are passing through the market place, although evening bookings have not been affected.

He added: “It's difficult to judge the situation after just a couple of days but we need to get the message out that we're open for business as usual. The town really does need this, though, and it'll be a great improvement.”

The pub is set to benefit greatly from the improvement works, which will lead to the area directly outside being turned into a large pedestrian area, and Mr Hann said that there are plans underway to apply for an outdoor trading licence so that the pub can have café-style tables outside in the summer.

Christine Pinsent, chair of the Beccles Business Association, said: “The Old Market place does need something doing to it and hopefully the changes will make it a bit more attractive when people arrive by bus.”

As well as the market place, Ravensmere is closed between Newgate and Old Market and The Score is also shut off to traffic. Buses which would normally stop in the market place are using temporary stops outside Tesco on Newgate and at the back of the Westgate department store on Smallgate.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “The construction works in Old Market are to improve bus waiting facilities and to enhance the appearance of this important public space. We have provided a sign advising that businesses in Old Market remain open.

“We sympathise if the temporary disruptions are causing difficulties, however we believe that once the works are complete the area will be more attractive, which will then encourage more pedestrians to use the area and local businesses.”

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