Campaigners vow to fight 'sell off'

HISTORY-lovers have vowed to fight the possible sell-off of some of Suffolk's most prestigious buildings after accusing a council of sabotaging their popularity.

HISTORY-lovers have vowed to fight the possible sell-off of some of Suffolk's most prestigious buildings after accusing a council of sabotaging their popularity.

A question mark is hanging over the future of all assets owned by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, while members seek extra funding to bankroll a multi-million pound entertainments venue on Bury St Edmunds' Cattle Market site.

Some people suspect the Manor House Museum, which has been regularly threatened with closure since it opened in 1993, will be the first to face the axe.

But campaigners yesterdaysounded a battle cry against the possible sale of the museum, which they view as one of the gems in Bury's historic crown.


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"Every time the council has a slight financial problem, the sell-off is always brought up," said Sir Reginald Harland, secretary to the friends of the Manor House.

"But the museum has been sabotaged ever since it was first proposed. I wrote to the council's chief executive pointing out that there was no car parking in that part of the town, but still nothing has been done about it.

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"It is very difficult for a museum to attract visitors if there is no car parking, sign posts or publicity.

"If the council does sell the building, then where will the large collections, which have built up over a period of time, be put?

"Manor House is the ideal place for these pieces, because of its historical background. It would be a great loss to the town if it were to be sold, but we have started fighting the move already."

A spokeswoman for the borough council said ample parking for the site is available to the rear of the museum, with the facility well used by visitors and staff alike.

"We regularly promote all of our museums in a variety of ways," she said. "Many different courses and events are held at the Manor House, which we know are appreciated by those who attend.

"We also look for cost-effective ways to make the most of the building, such as allowing the new Bury Town Council to use it for its meetings."

If the council does decide to sell any of its assets, the cash raised will help fund the entertainments venue, for which members have already set aside £16million – nearly half of its massive reserves.

But museum supporters are doubtful the threatened properties will ever find new owners.

Sir Reginald added: "The museum is housed in a lovely building, but it has been quite heavily converted and would be a very difficult space to put to any other use.

"The Manor House was not designed for people to permanently live in, and was more for overnight stays and entertaining. It would be impractical to make the building into a house.

The results of the review will not be known until later in the year.

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