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Bury Society raises concerns over town losing its borough status

PUBLISHED: 13:49 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:49 20 March 2018

Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds. Photo: JOSEPHINE SWEETMAN

Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds. Photo: JOSEPHINE SWEETMAN

Archant

Concerns have been raised by an influencial group in Bury St Edmunds which cares about the past, present and future of the town, over the potential loss of its borough status.

Martyn Taylor .Martyn Taylor .

It has come from the Bury Society with its chairman Martyn Taylor asking if the town is facing the prospect of losing its “identity”.

Mr Taylor’s comments come following remarks made by respected historian Dr Francis Young last week who raised fears that the town could lose its borough status along with its mayoral title with the planned merger of St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District councils who have gained Government backing to become a single new West Suffolk Council.

But senior councillors from both authorites said that whatever happens previous honours and freedoms bestowed by the borough will continue.

Mr Taylor said: “This right was conferred on it by James 1 in 1606 after the town had been left in limbo following the dissolution in 1539 of the once mighty Benedictine Abbey that had ruled it for over 500 years.

“Since having its first mayor in 1835, ‘others’ have decided the town’s future, it suffered a loss of one its two MPs by 1885 and then the creation of St Edmundsbury Borough Council in 1974. At the same time, it was also decided that we would no longer be the county town of West Suffolk as this was amalgamated with East Suffolk; hence the county of Suffolk was born.

“We are now facing the prospect of merging with Forest Heath District Council, are we to lose our identity once again?

“The Bury Society which has over 630 members is extremely concerned that this may well happen.

“Can assurances be given that any decisions regarding Bury St Edmunds are made with consideration for our heritage and history by politicians who actually care for Bury St Edmunds?”

Carol Bull, St Edmundsbury Borough councillor and Ruth Bowman, Forest Heath chairman, who are the chair and vice-chair of the Future Governance Steering Group, said: “Both councils understand the importance of each other’s historic status and the importance of civic leadership. It has been a consideration from the beginning of the work to create the new West Suffolk Council. In view of this our councillors have already agreed that this matter of borough status and civic leadership will be looked at this year by the shadow authority when it is formed. Whatever happens previous honours and freedoms bestowed by the borough will continue.”

A decision on whether a new Suffolk council will pursue ‘borough’ status will not be made until at least later next year, it has been decided.

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