Archaeology service could be off-loaded

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SUFFOLK County Council could off-load its archaeological service to a community group or charity.

The authority is considering plans to divest the department, which includes records and heritage services, in a bid to secure its future.

An option is to move the service, which is spread out at sites across the county including Bury St Edmunds, to the Museum of East Anglian Life, in Stowmarket.

The service costs the council £316,000 a year but its budget totals £2.1 million, including external funding.

A spokesman for the council said: “Our ambition is to strengthen the archaeological service and put it on a solid financial and organisational footing for the future.

“The idea we’ve been looking at is for a community group, interest company or charity to operate all of our heritage services potentially out of the Museum of East Anglian Life.

“Charities can attract Lottery funding and bring in further investment.”

The authority will consult on the idea with archive and archaeology stakeholders next month.

The proposal is likely to be discussed by the county’s cabinet in November with final approval being requested in the Spring.

The spokesman added: “There’s lots of work to be done and if it all goes ahead the changes would begin to be seen next April.”

The service focuses on maintaining an inventory of known archaeological sites and historic landscape features including those threatened by destruction from development and other land use changes.

It provides advice on conservation measures, a contracting service to record sites threatened with destruction as well as carrying out research and identifying finds made by residents.

The service also promotes the county’s heritage through publications, exhibitions, guided walks and lectures.