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Ipswich: Council seeking extra space for records as plans for Suffolk Heritage Centre are shelved

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 January 2014

The Suffolk Records Office in Ipswich.

The Suffolk Records Office in Ipswich.

Archant

Heritage groups in Suffolk have reacted with dismay to the county council’s decision to put on hold proposals to build a new centre to hold all its records.

The authority had been planning to develop a new Suffolk Heritage Centre holding all the county’s records – probably in Ipswich.

However this proposal has been put on ice. Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for localities, said: “Given the significant financial challenges the county council is currently facing, this is not considered a viable option at this time.”

As an alternative, the county is now looking at finding extra space linked to its existing records offices in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft.

It is also planning to go ahead with “digitising” its records – putting them all online – but this could take many years to complete.

Now the Friends of the Suffolk Record Office have written an open letter to county council chairman Guy McGregor expressing concern at the freezing of the plans to build the heritage centre.

The letter was drawn up by Friends’ chairman Dr Paul Simmons and signed by other members of the Suffolk Heritage Forum.

They say they are concerned that the decision was taken for political reasons after people in west Suffolk expressed concern about moving records away from Bury.

The letter says they are not worried about where the centre should be – but feel it is necessary to have documents and artifacts stored in a suitable environment and that they are easily accessible to those who want to use them.

But the letter adds: “We support the digitisation of the archives.

“This will undoubtedly facilitate access but, with the best will in the world, the five-year action plan will only make a fraction of those archives available for reading on the web.”

The letter concludes: “We urge the council to re-consider its decision, or to put forward an equally viable proposal to enhance heritage facilities.”

A spokesman for the county said it would continue to work with the Suffolk Heritage Forum, district and borough councils and University Campus Suffolk to explore opportunities for the heritage services.

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