Council could sell off prized buildings

ONE of the richest council in Suffolk looks set to sell-off some of its most prestigious buildings to bankroll a multi-million pound entertainments venue to rival the best in the region.

ONE of the richest council in Suffolk looks set to sell-off some of its most prestigious buildings to bankroll a multi-million pound entertainments venue to rival the best in the region.

The move is currently being investigated by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

The review of all the authority's assets comes following a decision to release almost half the council's massive £40million reserves for a new public building on the redeveloped Cattle Market site in Bury St Edmunds. Members hope rationalising other properties will help minimise the impact of the scheme on taxpayers.

Although final decisions regarding where the axe will fall have yet to be made, it is thought the Corn Exchange, Market Cross and Manor House Museum are all under close scrutiny regarding cost and performance.


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"Action like this is usually a prelude to cutting something, which we do not like," said David Rees, chairman of the Bury Society, who likened the move to selling off the family silver.

"The Market Cross is a beautiful building, but is very difficult in terms of access and is a hard space to use. It would be a great shame if the public were to lose it.

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"Everyone seems to have got the knives out regarding the Manor House Museum, which is a much more difficult problem.

"It is a lovely museum, and I think everyone at the Bury Society would be very sad if the service there diminished or, even worse, closed. It is a great building, and it would be terrible if it went back to private usage where the public were not admitted to enjoy it."

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said anything remained a possibility – including selling or leasing properties to help recoup cash spent on the Cattle Market redevelopment.

"Part of our election pledge was to look at everything the council does and make sure they are relevant and up-to-date," said Mr Griffiths. "It makes it even more important to review the properties we own now we have taken the rather exciting and brave decisions regarding the Cattle Market redevelopment.

"Everything is a possibility, including selling off properties or using them for a different purpose – everything should be looked at both in terms council tax and the service it provides to the people of St Edmundsbury."

Andrew Varley, chairman of the council's Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party, said it was not just historic buildings which could face the chop. The council's headquarters on both Angel Hill and Western Way, he added, were also coming under close scrutiny.

"We are looking at all of our commitments and assets to rationalise them in order to help offset the costs of the public building on the Cattle Market site," said Mr Varley.

"If we are serious about this proposal, then this is one option we have to consider. Already the process is in place, and we are looking at our assets and the whole swathe of buildings we own, and this will continue keenly.

"But we are not just talking about high profile public buildings like the Corn Exchange and Moyse's Hall, but also the borough offices on Angel Hill and Western Way.

"We will question if the building is fit for its purpose, and whether or not we are getting good value out of them."

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