'Irreplaceable' estate figure steps back due to ill health

Ernie Broom, 85.

Ernie Broom, 85, has stepped down as chairman of HEART on the Howard estate in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A grandfather described as the "heart of the community" on a Bury St Edmunds estate has stood down from a key role.

Ernie Broom, who was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2015 for services to the community in Bury St Edmunds, is stepping back as chairman of HEART (the Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants) due to ill health.

The 85-year-old, who has 21 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, has fought to bring improvements to the area he loves.

Mr Broom, who was also a founding member of the estate's over-60s club, said some of his proudest achievements have been successfully getting an Asda supermarket in Western Way and the Luke Southgate memorial in remembrance of the young RAF gunner who died in Afghanistan. 

Ernie Broom moved to the Howard estate in 1965.

Ernie Broom moved to the Howard estate in 1965. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mr Broom, who was chairman of HEART for about 15 years and a member since it first started, said: "I just want to be part of my community. I just love my community and I look for positives in things."

A job offer for a Post Office engineer saw Mr Broom, wife Deirdre and their three young children move from London to the area in 1965.

The Howard estate was still being built and Mr Broom said: "I just felt we had nothing here. We didn't know each other and we needed to know each other."

He took it upon himself to start a youth club, so young people on the estate had something to do.

Mr Broom also campaigned for the Merry-Go-Round pub site to be developed and got a pharmacy on the estate, amongst his achievements.

Ernie Broom (left) being presented with his scroll by councillor Paul Hopfensperger.

Ernie Broom (left) being presented with a special award by councillor Paul Hopfensperger in 2018. - Credit: Beccy Hopfensperger

St Olaves district councillor Paul Hopfensperger said he has known Mr Broom for 46 years and sees him as a second father.

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He said: "He loves his estate and is the person everyone goes to there for advice.

"He is the heart of the community. He's irreplaceable. He is a special man."

He said Mr Broom had also been "key" in getting the new community centre.

He added: "It doesn't matter what project you think of up there - Ernie has always been part of it."

Mr Broom, who had been a governor at both Howard Middle and Howard Primary schools, also fought to keep Howard Middle open - but lost that fight.

Town councillor Katie Parker said she wanted "to do a big thank you to him as he's done such a lot".

Ernie Broom with his three children Karen Arbon, Michael and Anne Burwell at a BEM celebration.

Ernie Broom with his three children Karen Arbon, Michael and Anne Burwell at a celebration to mark him being awarded a British Empire Medal. - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

On standing down as HEART chairman, Mr Broom said: "I think I have done my bit. There's room for others. Throughout the pandemic I have heard so many good stories and lovely stories.

"There's lots and lots of people doing good things and I'm hoping they all come along when we open the new community centre and help run it."

Mr Broom has also stood down as Battle of Britain Wings Appeal officer for the local RAF Association (RAFA).

He worked as groundcrew for the RAF, as a squadron electrician, from 1954 to 1959.

The Howard estate also has its Green Hearts community group.