Wedding anger after register office axe

THE closure of a Suffolk registry office was branded “an attack on marriage” last night after it emerged there were still no firm plans for its replacement.

Will Clarke

THE closure of a Suffolk registry office was branded “an attack on marriage” last night after it emerged there were still no firm plans for its replacement.

The Bury St Edmunds registry office will close from April next year, and until a new site is found the nearest alternative will be in Sudbury, which has space for only 14 seated guests.

Last night, David Ruffley, Tory MP for Bury St Edmunds, hit out at the Suffolk County Council plan.

He said he would be meeting with “upset” staff from the office to hear their concerns in more detail.

“I think it is particularly ironic that in a week when we see national figures for record marriage breakdowns we also see the closure of an institution which serves marriage. This is a closure with no clear idea of where the service is going to go.”

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The picturesque Georgian register office is to close from April next year as part of a local authority money-saving shake up. The council is selling its offices on Honey Hill, which include the registry office, along with the main county council centre at Shire Hall.

The work carried out at Shire Hall will be transferred to the new public service village on Western Way, Bury, but bosses have confirmed the registry service will not be transferred to the state-of-the-art building.

Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, added: “This is absolutely ridiculous, Bury is the main town of west Suffolk and a rapidly growing part of the country.”

Doubts have also been placed over the future of the neighbouring records office, which the council had wanted to turn into flats. That plan now appears to have been withdrawn despite its inclusion in current council papers.

Sue Turner, 44, of Ixworth, near Bury, who married at the town's registry office 15 years ago, said she had fears for the future of affordable weddings and civil unions in the area.

“I am amazed they are shutting it - it seems a real shame and quite a loss for Bury,” she said. “All our friends and relatives live round here and many couldn't afford to travel far for a wedding.”

David Nettleton, a St Edmundsbury Borough Council member, said: “This isn't going to only affect marriages. I registered the birth of all my three daughters at that office. I wouldn't fancy driving to Ipswich or Cambridge for that - this is something they should re-think.”

Graham Dixon, director of resource management for the county council, said: “I would like to reassure any couples planning to marry or register a civil partnership in the near future that the Shire Hall venue will be available to them.

“We are planning to provide an alternative site in the area as soon as possible, but in the meantime ceremonies planned after April 17, 2009 will be accommodated at one of the other register offices in the county.”

After the closure, the nearest of the county's five remaining registries is at Sudbury.

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