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‘Disrespectful heritage theft’ claim at launch of consultation on future of town’s record office

PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:02 21 September 2018

Lowestoft  library and record office.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Lowestoft library and record office. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

Hopes for key historic artefacts staying in Lowestoft were served another blow today as a consultation was launched.

Members of the Save Our Record Office group. Picture: Save Our Record OfficeMembers of the Save Our Record Office group. Picture: Save Our Record Office

A community campaign to protect the Lowestoft Record Office, based at the town’s library, was launched earlier this year when its closure and replacement by an unmanned access point was announced by Suffolk County Council.

However, any hopes that the record office would keep its full complement of artefacts and its strong room facility have been dashed with the launch of a consultation on how the facility will operate going forward.

Campaigners had been clinging to the hope the consultation would include a strong room option, before an email was sent to pre-engagment consultees last month revealing that the council had no plans to offer such an option, claiming any new strong room would cost at least £3.3m.

The consultation will focus on opening hours, events and activities, collections and digitisation, and volunteering opportunities at the records office which will continue to operate from the Lowestoft library building.

Lowestoft  library and record office.
Picture: Nick ButcherLowestoft library and record office. Picture: Nick Butcher

Suffolk County Council say the record office is less efficient than other facilities, records are at risk of fire, smoke and water damage, and it does not meet 21st century standards.

Any archive material, including key collections such as fiche and film, maps and indexes, which can be kept on open shelving in the library will be kept in Lowestoft.

However any vulnerable collections at risk of damage will be moved to Ipswich’s new £20m heritage centre, The Hold following the building’s completion in 2020.

Paul West, Cabinet Member for Heritage, said: “We are grateful for the feedback we received from our pre-engagement with residents and this has been taken into account when developing plans for the transformed service.

Members of the Save Our Record Office group. Picture: Save Our Record OfficeMembers of the Save Our Record Office group. Picture: Save Our Record Office

“The new service will be staffed, and we have worked closely with senior archivists to keep many of the most well-used collections in Lowestoft.”

He added: “We want to see a thriving archive service for north-east Suffolk which reflects the way that people would like to access information and provides exciting new events and learning opportunities.

“We have a real opportunity for positive change and I would like to encourage residents to have their say and help us to shape the future service.”

Campaign group Save Our Record Office branded the consultation an “erosion of local democracy”.

Chairman Bob Collis said: “I have been involved with local museums and history groups for over 40 years and this is the most disgusting and disrespectful piece of heritage theft from Suffolk County Council I have ever seen.”

The consultation will run from today at 9am until 23.59 on Thursday, November 1, and can be found at https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-petitions-and-elections/consultations/lowestoft-record-office-consultation/

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