Bury St Edmunds West Suffolk Archive campaign wins backing from West Suffolk Council leader
The leader of West Suffolk Council has backed the fight to keep historic archives in Bury St Edmunds.
The campaigns were launched this week with more than 100 people gathering to protest at the planned closure of West Suffolk Archives branch in Raingate Street branch, as part of swingeing budget cuts by Suffolk County Council (SCC).
Cllr Waterman has now also written to Suffolk County Council calling for the archives to remain in West Suffolk and reinforcing the district council’s offer to help to find a location, locally.
He told campaigners “I share your disappointment and indeed anger over the proposal by SCC to move the Bury St Edmunds archive to Ipswich.
“I fully back the campaigns to keep this important part of the historical fabric of our town where it belongs – in the town.
“We have done everything possible to ensure there is suitable provision.
“There were some preliminary discussions about moving the archive to the Western Way site, and despite the cancellation of the massively wasteful plan to build a hub there, it would still be possible for the archive to be part of the redevelopment going forward.
“Alternatively, there are a number of other possibilities which we have flagged up to SCC, including moving it to the current West Suffolk House.
“West Suffolk Council has done everything it can to work with SCC to find suitable new premises for the archive, and we continue to be willing to do so.
“Their decision is purely down to a misguided attempt to save a small amount of money in the short term. It is short sighted and damaging to the heritage of our historic town.
“It is a proposal that could only be made by people who have just a distant knowledge of Bury St Edmunds and its history and don’t care for our past or future.
“I fully back the campaign, and know we will have the support of everyone who wants what’s in the best interests of our town.”
The West Suffolk archives range from original documents including letters, reports, photographs, maps, plans, council and parish records, commercial records, historic collections, newspapers and personal items.
They have been kept in Bury St Edmunds for centuries and are used daily by everyone from those researching family history to groups and societies looking to secure their past - for future generations.
Suffolk County Council announced its plans to close the branch, along with that in Lowestoft, East Suffolk, in a bid to make £64.7m budget cuts.
It says centralising the archives at The Hold could save about £140,000 a year.
In February 2023, Suffolk County Council committed £3.4m to move West Suffolk Archives branch to the proposed Western Way hub development in Bury St Edmunds.
It said remaining at its current location would have required over £5m to protect the records and meet modern archive standards.
West Suffolk Council decided to shelve the Western Way development however following concerns over cost.
Cllr Waterman added: “While this is a decision for Suffolk County Council, and we understand the financial situation they and all local authorities have been put in by the national government during the current economic crisis, my priority remains that West Suffolk residents have access to their history and archives locally.
“At no point did the county council suggest an option of moving archives out of West Suffolk when they were looking at what to do with the Bury St Edmunds facility.
“That is why we offered to work with them to find affordable places the archives could stay locally, and I urge Suffolk County Council to take us up on that proposal and work together on delivering a solution where our history remains in West Suffolk.”
Join Suffolk News (Bury Free Press) in the fight to keep the archives in town and add your voice to the campaign.
For the Bury Society, visit: www.burysociety.com
You can also contact your local county councillor to make your views known.