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Local hero squares up to majors for retail

Local firm RG Carter has pitched into battle against national rivals for a £100 million retail scheme in Suffolk.

The Norwich-based contractor is up against Taylor Woodrow, Sir Robert McAlpine and Carillion, which has been tracking the deal since last year as Mowlem.

The project in Bury St Edmunds, known as the Cattle Market, is being developed by Centros Miller in partnership with St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

The only shopping area in the town is currently the Cornhill Walk Centre and local planners are hoping the new centre will kick start a revamp of the town best known for its historic cathedral and more recently for being the home of brewer Greene King, the company behind IPA and Abbott Ale.

Designed by London firm Hopkins Architects, the development will see 35 retail units built anchored by a Debenhams store. Topshop, HMV, Waterstones and New Look have also signed up for space at the Suffolk shopping centre.

The scheme was originally tendered for last year as a £50 million deal and attracted interest from Sir Robert McAlpine and Mowlem.

But the scheme had to be retendered in the Official Journal after plans included a new public building.

A 500 seat auditorium was included in the designs last year after an extensive consultation period, which outlined the need for a public venue for concerts and events.

One bidder said: 'We're all pretty hopeful about this scheme and it seems to be moving along. The delay has been frustrating.'

The project is being built on an existing car park and will also include 50 residential apartments, a 650 space open air car park, a 200 space underground car park and a new public square with exhibition venue.

A source close to the client said: 'We are hoping to have all the tenders assessed by July and are looking for a contract award soon after that. We anticipate construction work to start in October.' The 5 ha development is due to be finished by 2008.

By Stephanie Hendries