Historic building sale is put on hold

HERITAGE campaigners are celebrating after it emerged moves to sell off one of Suffolk's finest buildings for new housing had been put on ice because of the economic downturn.

Laurence Cawley

HERITAGE campaigners are celebrating after it emerged moves to sell off one of Suffolk's finest buildings for new housing had been put on ice because of the economic downturn.

Suffolk County Council had planned to close its register office at the Shire Hall complex in Bury St Edmunds next year and sell the whole five-acre site to the highest bidder in order to help pay for its move into the West Suffolk House in the town's Western Way.

But last night Jane Storey, the council's cabinet member for resource management, said the idea had been shelved for the time being.


You may also want to watch:


She said uncertainty over the future of local government - which could see two separate unitary authorities replacing the county council and all the borough and district councils - together with the downturn in the property market meant it was unwise to sell the plot at the present time.

Mrs Storey said not selling off the Shire Hall complex did not affect the opening of the forthcoming West Suffolk House because they had always planned for a lag between one being opened and the other sold off.

Most Read

“We are going to see what happens with the Local Government Review because, depending on the outcome, we might need the buildings. There's no point in disposing of something when we, or another authority, might need it.

“And it is not a good time to sell. In terms of Shire Hall we are going to hang on for a couple of months and see what happens.”

She said the registry office would remain has it is for the time being.

“West Suffolk House is virtually there and the Shire Hall situation has always been one of the things we have talked about as risk to the project. But actually the financial case is not an issue. The disposal of Shire Hall is something we will have to do at some stage but at the moment we do not have to dispose of it to afford West Suffolk House.”

Chairman of the Bury Society, Sarah Green, said she was delighted to hear that the Shire Hall complex would remain as it was for now.

She said she hoped the register office would remain in place for as long as possible and said the delay in selling it off gave planners to do further thinking about how it could be developed in the future.

Mrs Green said: “We had great concerns about development down there as it is a very sensitive part of the town and it would have to be an exceptionally good scheme to be approved in such an important part of town.

“It is a very tranquil site and it is very historic. I am very relieved to hear they have put the scheme on ice and am delighted that the registry office will remain. It is such an important amenity I hope it will stay.

“It's a wonderful part of town and I hope it stays unsold.”

Earlier this year Bidwells were hired by the county council to come with a scheme for the entire site, which is cut in half by Raingate Street.

Part of the Shire Hall complex sits within the precinct of the Medieval Abbey, parts of which are classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national significance.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter