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Councillors back proposal to prioritise renovation of Town Hall as possible home for record office

PUBLISHED: 09:12 24 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:12 24 February 2018

Lowestoft Town Hall. Picture: Archant library.

Lowestoft Town Hall. Picture: Archant library.

Proposals to restore Lowestoft’s Town Hall as a potential new home for the record office have been unanimously backed by councillors.

The SORO group campaigning to save Lowestoft Record Office. 

Picture: Nick Butcher The SORO group campaigning to save Lowestoft Record Office. Picture: Nick Butcher

A motion to prioritise the renovation and redesign of the building to create a purpose built facility for the record office if plans to close the current facility continue, was put before members of Waveney District Council on Wednesday by councillor Peter Byatt.

Mr Byatt, who is also a member of Lowestoft Town Council, said: “It is about putting in place a possible back up plan, a plan B should an alternative be needed to keep this important collection in Lowestoft.

“I understand that there are funding implications, but there is nothing to prevent the 5,000 people who signed the petition from starting their own subscription to support this.

“We have a very competent team of officers already involved and I’m sure that they would explore every funding avenue alongside all stakeholders to expedite the renovation of the Town Hall as a matter urgency.”

The record office is based at Lowestoft Library. 
Picture: Nick Butcher. The record office is based at Lowestoft Library. Picture: Nick Butcher.

It comes after Suffolk County Council announced plans last month to replace the record office based at Lowestoft Library with an unmanned access point by the end of 2019, and move the archives currently stored there into a multi-million pound facility in Ipswich.

The proposal was discussed ahead of the news that the county council will now hold a public consultation over the decision, following a campaign by the Save Our Record Office (SORO) group.

Councillors unanimously backed Mr Byatt’s motion to ask for the timetable for Lowestoft’s Heritage Action Zone - a five-year scheme announced last year which will see neglected buildings in north Lowestoft brought back into use - amended to ensure redeveloping the Town Hall takes priority.

The scheme will see the district council working in partnership with Lowestoft Town Council, East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust and Lowestoft Vision, with the support of Historic England.

The Lowestoft Journal is backing the Save Our Record Office (SORO) campaign. Picture: Archant. The Lowestoft Journal is backing the Save Our Record Office (SORO) campaign. Picture: Archant.

Speaking at the meeting, Tony Goldson, a district councillor and Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health who has been involved with the record office decision, said: “Suffolk County Council supports this motion as one of the potential options for the future of the record office service in Lowestoft. This of course is on the proviso that the funding required to bring the facilities at the Town Hall are up to standard and those that are required by The National Archives.

“Our priority is the long-term preservation of Lowestoft’s more vulnerable collections which are currently stored in the basement of the record office. While some printing materials and copies can be stored in other heritage locations, it is vital that the storage of those vulnerable records meet with the standards set by The National Archives.”

After approving the motion, councillors were invited for a tour of the Town Hall to assess the work to be done.

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