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Town planning president is 'confident' Bury St Edmunds' abbey will be 'protected for future generations'

PUBLISHED: 16:00 01 June 2019 | UPDATED: 21:40 01 June 2019

Ian Tant (left), President of the RTPI with Richard Summers, a former RTPI president and coordinator at the Heritage Partnership. Behind them is the statue of St Edmund by Dame Elisabeth Frink and the West Front. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Ian Tant (left), President of the RTPI with Richard Summers, a former RTPI president and coordinator at the Heritage Partnership. Behind them is the statue of St Edmund by Dame Elisabeth Frink and the West Front. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

A town planning expert has said he is "confident that the Abbey of St Edmund is in good hands" following a visit to Bury St Edmunds.

Ian Tant, President of the RTPI, with representatives of the Heritage Partnership including West Suffolk Council at the model of the Abbey of St Edmund which depicts what it would have once looked like Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILIan Tant, President of the RTPI, with representatives of the Heritage Partnership including West Suffolk Council at the model of the Abbey of St Edmund which depicts what it would have once looked like Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Ian Tant, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), visited the historic market town on Thursday, May 30, to find out about the work of the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership and its role in the community celebrations next year to mark the abbey's 1000th anniversary.

The abbey was once among the richest Benedictine monasteries in England until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

It is possible that the remains of St Edmund could reside at the site, but further research is needed before the mystery can be solved.

The heritage partnership is working to develop a better understanding of the heritage significance of the Abbey of St Edmund and to protect it for future generations.

Overlooking the site of the monk's burial ground - in 1903 the bodies of five abbots were uncovered. Among them Abbot Sampson who was said to be one of the last to check on the body of St Edmund and whose crozier – a staff of office, is now exhibited at Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds.
Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILOverlooking the site of the monk's burial ground - in 1903 the bodies of five abbots were uncovered. Among them Abbot Sampson who was said to be one of the last to check on the body of St Edmund and whose crozier – a staff of office, is now exhibited at Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Mr Tant said he "thoroughly enjoyed" his visit and is "confident that the Abbey of St Edmund is in good hands and that it will be conserved for future generations so that its continuing relevance can be understood in modern times".

He added: "It was fascinating to visit the Abbey of St Edmund in the heart of Bury St Edmunds, to see the evocative setting of the ruins of the Abbey and to discuss exciting ideas for heritage conservation and interpretation with the heritage partnership.

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"The remains of the abbey include two gate towers and two medieval churches, one of which is now the cathedral. The abbey celebrates 1000 years next year and the remains are a sight to behold.

"As a professional planner, I was particularly interested to see how the layout of the abbey was extended into the grid layout of the medieval town, which is still a charming and thriving centre of attraction for local people and visitors.

"I was very impressed to hear how the developing work of the heritage partnership has been carefully integrated into the recent town centre masterplan and will inform future local plans."

The Heritage Partnership is led by St Edmundsbury Cathedral and West Suffolk Council in collaboration with nearly 20 other local and regional public, private and voluntary organisations.

Earlier this year, the group published the results of two research studies it had commissioned, a heritage assessment and conservation plan.

The past two months has seen the partnership carry out a weekly face-to-face visitor survey and several local community engagement meetings. These follow on from the discussions raised at its January public conference and will help shape and prioritise funding bids to enable these projects to go ahead.

Richard Summers, a professional town planner and RTPI past president, is the coordinator of the Heritage Partnership. He said: "It is an exciting time for the Abbey of St Edmund to be planning these improvements to the Abbey precinct as well as next year's millennium celebrations in memory of St Edmund.

"Our work is about engaging with people of all ages and interests, whether they are residents or visitors, to ensure that the stories of St Edmund and the Abbey can be told and understood and that the Abbey precinct itself can be protected for future generations to enjoy.

"It was a pleasure to welcome Ian Tant, this year's RTPI President, to Bury St Edmunds to give him a tour of the Abbey of St Edmund area and to discuss our exciting ideas for various heritage conservation and improvement projects which we hope will be realised through future funding bids."

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