Town may seek World Heritage Status

AN HISTORIC Suffolk town is considering applying for World Heritage Site status as part of a bid to boost tourism and showcase its attractions.With a population 100,000, Bury St Edmunds has a wealth of Grade I listed buildings and a Benedictine monastery founded in 1020 AD by the celebrated King Canute.

AN HISTORIC Suffolk town is considering applying for World Heritage Site status as part of a bid to boost tourism and showcase its attractions.

With a population 100,000, Bury St Edmunds has a wealth of Grade I listed buildings and a Benedictine monastery founded in 1020 AD by the celebrated King Canute.

Yesterday, civic leaders joined forces in calling for the town to lodge a bid for World Heritage Site status.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said he would be sending a letter to the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell urging Bury to be placed on the Government's list of nominations for the special status, which is then sent to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


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If the town did manage to meet the exacting qualifying criteria laid down, it would get emergency assistance from the United Nations in the event of flooding or other natural disaster.

It would also give the town access to millions of pounds in funding set aside to pay for heritage site upkeep.

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Each year, between 20 and 40 locations worldwide are chosen as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

Sites already boasting UNESCO's heritage accolade include Kew Gardens in London, the Dorset and East Devon coast, Durham and the Scottish island of St Kilda.

If Bury was to join this list, the town could swell with new wealth from tourism and it historic sites would be protected forever, campaigners claim.

Mr Ruffley said: “Bury is a heritage jewel of England, but because it is such a courteous and polite town it sometimes hasn't beaten the drum and told the world how good it is in terms of heritage.

“It is a world class heritage site not just because of the Abbey but because its Norman grid layout, its stunning Georgian architecture and its epoch-making Millennium Tower on St Edmundsbury Cathedral.”

Rebecca Hopfensperger, Bury mayor, said: “I think it is definitely feasible and I think it would offer a lot of benefits. Bury is a beautiful historic town that is steeped in history and has shaped history and this is absolutely in line with what Bury St Edmunds Town Council is trying to achieve.

“It is really important that we preserve our heritage and from a tourism point of view I think it would be a really good thing. It also ties in with trying to save the Manor House Museum and would be in line with the campaign to get St Edmund reinstated as the nation's patron saint - which we are backing.”

Mrs Hopfensperger added she would be raising the World Heritage Site idea at the next meeting of the town council.

Martin Lightfoot, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Town Trust, welcomed the idea, adding: “I think we should be bringing visitors into the town. We have such a variety of heritage in the town that the list is almost endless.”

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said he thought the idea was “extremely ambitious” adding: “I would support anything that would be good for Bury. We would have to look at what is being proposed in great detail and if we felt it warranted further consideration we would be happy to look at it.”

Bury's heritage highlights include:

n The Benedictine Monastery, founded by King Canute, was one of the richest in England. The Abbey of St Edmund was built between 1000 and 1100AD

n In 1214 the barons of England met in the Abbey Church and swore that they would force King John to accept the Charter of Liberties, later known as Magna Carter

n The Millennium Tower, completed in 2005, which brought to fruition the building work at St Edmundsbury Cathedral first started in 1914.

n The Theatre Royal was built by the National Gallery architect William Wilkins in 1819 and is the sole surviving Regency Theatre left in the country

n Bury St Edmunds boasts Britain's first internally illuminated street sign, the Pillar of Salt. When built, it had to be granted special permission because it did not conform to regulations.

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