Council 'must not sell historic office'

A HERITAGE watchdog has called on council chiefs to rethink their decision to put one of a Suffolk town's most prestigious and imposing buildings up for sale.

James Mortlock

A HERITAGE watchdog has called on council chiefs to rethink their decision to put one of a Suffolk town's most prestigious and imposing buildings up for sale.

Despite the credit crunch developers are expected to pay a multi-million pound figure for St Edmundsbury Borough Council's flag ship offices on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, which went on the market last week.

The decision comes ahead of the council's move to its new headquarters in the town's Western Way, which it will share with Suffolk County Council.


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However, Sarah Green, of the town heritage group the Bury Society, urged the council to drop the sale and consider hanging on to the building for public use.

She believed the move was premature in light of likely major changes to the shape of local government over the next few years: “The society thinks they should wait until it has been decided how local government is going to be administered. This is a very fine building.”

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She said the offices could be used to house the town's register office when the current site closes next year: “We are very disappointed with this decision. It would make a wonderful registry office and there are many other uses it could be put to for the benefit of the town. It's such a wonderful building it should be retained for the use of the town.”

However, Nigel Aitkens, St Edmundsbury portfolio holder for economy and asset management, said the new council headquarters was far more suitable for any future local government than the Angel Hill building.

Mr Aitkens, who expected the sale to make the council millions of pounds, said council taxpayers in the area wanted the authority to use its resources wisely, investing in flagship buildings such as the Athenaeum while keeping bill rises to minimum.

“When you consider the wonderful attractions we have, such as West Stow Country Park, the Abbey Gardens and Nowton Park, people want these to be run in the best possible way rather than for the council to retain posh offices on Angel Hill.”

Savills, which is handling the sale, said the 71-year-old building may be used for a commercial, leisure or residential development and prospective buyers had until November 5 to make their bids.

Sam Rous, of Savills, said: “It's a prime site in what is the historic core of the town. We expect there to be a lot of interest.”

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