Councillor demands no coastal money is used for archive project

Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw at Suffolk County Council full council meeting. Picture: Suffolk County Co

Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw at Suffolk County Council full council meeting. Picture: Suffolk County Council - Credit: Archant

The battle to halt the closure of Lowestoft Record Office was brought to the forefront of Suffolk County Council at their full council meeting.

Green councillor for Beccles, Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, asked the cabinet member for Ipswich a probing question on the topic of the £20m archive project, known as The Hold.

She expressed dismay at the possibility the new centre for heritage in Ipswich could be funded by the Government's Coastal Communities Fund, and said residents in Lowestoft felt 'powerless' in regards to the closure of the town's record office.

In a question to Paul West, cabinet member for Ipswich, Mrs Brambley-Crawshaw asked for assurances that money from the Coastal Communities Fund would not be used to benefit projects based in Ipswich.

She said: 'People in Waveney are feeling desperate and powerless about the future of the Lowestoft Record Office which is implicated in the decision to have one heritage venue.

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'One of the suggested routes for funding is the Coastal Communities Fund which benefits places like Lowestoft and Southwold. It is unacceptable to take heritage away from coastal communities using money meant for those communities.

'Will you ensure that The Hold will not take money from coastal communities for this Ipswich-based project?'

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Mr West did not confirm or deny an application for Coastal Communities Fund money, and refused to commit the council to not applying for the grant in the future.

He said: 'It is not a question for this council to say we will only every put forward one application that might guarantee the success of that one application against others that we may be considering.

'There is criteria that is set out. Every application has to meet a certain criteria and that is what every bid from this council to the Coastal Communities Fund will endeavour to meet so I hope that reassures you.'

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Brambley-Crawshaw said: 'It is not reassuring to me that they plan to spend £19m in Ipswich and take our records office away at the same time.

'He didn't say that they would not apply for these pots of money that are meant for coastal communities and I think that is really disappointing because there is such need in these coastal communities and to say that saying that this money going to Ipswich will benefit coastal communities is just a step too far.'

The county council is in the process of holding a consultation over the proposed changes to Lowestoft Record Office, which include moving all the archives to Ipswich and creating an unmanned access point in the town.

Tony Goldson, cabinet member for health and portfolio holder for heritage, said: 'The changes at Lowestoft would be required regardless of whether or not we were working on The Hold project. The storeroom in Lowestoft is full, with inadequate conditions to store archive collections, putting vulnerable archives at risk of damage and loss.

'The Hold project does, however, give us the means to deliver a greater range of archive-related events, learning activities, and digital programmes across the whole county.

'Whatever the outcome of the consultation, a Record Office service will be maintained in Lowestoft. What this service will look like will be decided through the consultation process.'

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