An appeal to find out what younger visitors to Bury St Edmunds want from their town centre has been heeded with a surge in responses from people under 35. And business leaders in the town say these valuable opinions, given in the annual Our Bury St Edmunds ‘benchmarking’ survey will be listened to.
The study is carried out annually to find out how the town is perceived by the people who use it. This year the Business Improvement District (BID) organisation, which commissions the study, had indicated that it wanted to hear from age groups that hadn’t been well-represented in previous surveys and responses from those in the 16-25 and 26-35 age groups have both doubled as a result.
Our Bury St Edmunds Chief Executive Mark Cordell has welcomed the views. He said: “In the past six years around 25% or fewer of the total responses have been from people aged 35 or under. It’s these voices that we were particularly keen to hear this year and the findings show that more than 50% of the people who took the trouble to respond are from that age group. Of course everyone’s view is important but it’s good to know that we are reaching people that perhaps we haven’t done previously.”
The survey has reinforced the view that Bury St Edmunds is still a great place to live, work and run a business. It’s perceived as considerably more attractive as a town than other large towns nationally and compares much better with its restaurants, markets and retail offering against the national figures. In addition the report has positive news for the local economy with 50% of respondents saying they spend more than £20 on a visit to the town centre, an increase of 10% on last year’s survey.
Mark Cordell added: “We will look at all the responses very carefully. We have had a lot of comments from the parents of young children and they have highlighted aspects that would make a visit to the town centre easier for them. Among these were changes to the parking system to allow them to stay in town for longer, such as pay on exit or more long stay parking. The location of public toilets was also mentioned by many participants. In addition, I’m pleased to see that the number of people taking advantage of our Free from Three parking initiative on a Tuesday is increasing by a little every year. I will be raising all of the points made, whether positive or negative, with the various agencies that we work with and will continue to press for the improvements our town centre users want to see.”
In many aspects of the report, Bury St Edmunds scored well above the national average for large and small town centres. The significant findings of the research included:
- More than 90% of people said they would recommend a visit to Bury St Edmunds to others – which is around 25% higher than other towns.
- Bury’s car parks are busier on both market days and non-market days than the national average. On average a fifth of spaces are empty on a market day and about a third on a non-market day.
- 77% of respondents said cafes and restaurants were a positive aspect of the town, which is consistent with previous years and more than 40% higher than the national average.
The study was commissioned for the seventh year running and was carried out by researchers from People and Places via an online survey and face to face interviews. The full report will be considered by the board of Our Bury St Edmunds in the coming weeks.