Loan will save historic town landmark

ONE of Suffolk's most famous landmarks was last night saved from falling into wrack and ruin after councillors decided to borrow £150,000 to maintain the ancient building.

By Richard Smith

BONE of Suffolk's most famous landmarks was last night saved from falling into wrack and ruin after councillors decided to borrow £150,000 to maintain the ancient building.

Woodbridge Town Council agreed to borrow the money from the Public Works Loan Board and to use £50,000 from the council's reserves towards the £200,000-plus costs of repairing the neglected Shire Hall. A fundraising appeal will be launched to help with the estimated £18,000 annual costs of repaying the loan. One scheme will be to ask the public to pay £35 for a brick which will be laid as paving outside the hall, home of the town council. The council will also ask numerous trusts and organisations, which did not reply to an initial letter for financial help, for assistance.

The decisions were taken at a special town council meeting last night at the Shire Hall, a Grade I listed building built in 1575. The building has become so dilapidated after a lack of maintenance that lead guttering has fallen down.


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Mac Miles, finance committee chairman, said: ''The Shire Hall has become increasingly shabby and it is in a bad need of repair. It is not a good advert for a town that we are trying to sell as a place for you to come and spend your money. It is in the interests of the whole town that this should be brought back into a pristine condition.''

The council had a survey of the Shire Hall done in 1999 and was quoted £95,000 in 2001 for repairs. The estimated cost has since risen to between £205,000 and £231,000.

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Cllr Binns said: ''We have shillied and shallied for four years and that has cost us £100,000. We have only four weeks to accept the current offer of repairs to this building at the current price.''

But Cllr Roy Burgon said the council should consider other options, including giving the building to a trust and relocating, warning that if the council used all its reserves there would be nothing left for other projects.

Chris Walker, council clerk, said she had applied to both English Heritage and the district council to put the building on the "at risk" register but they had declined.

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