Council gets criticised for paying rent on empty unit in Bury St Edmunds

The former TIC building on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds
The former TIC building on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds
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A council has been criticised for continuing to pay rent on a building it vacated ‘hastily’ without first finding a replacement tenant.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is still paying rent on the former Tourist Information Centre, despite vacating the building on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, at the start of June.

A council spokeswoman said it had been permitted to break its lease, which had almost five years left to run, as long as it found a tenant to take over rent payments on the property.

Until one is found, it will continue to pay £1,250 a month, or £15,000 a year for the remainder of the lease.

“If you’re going to close something and you’ve got four and a half years on the lease, you keep it on a while, that way you get tenants to take over the lease so you’re not paying for an empty building,” said Bury resident Tom Murray.

He thinks the TIC should have remained open until the end of the tourist season and the council should have first ‘attempted to make it more profitable’.

“They keep cutting the ham off the bone and soon there will only be the bone left,” he said.

A council spokeswoman said: “We needed to get out on the grounds that footfall was down 40 per cent over two years and income had fallen in line with that.”

She said the council began making savings of £70,000 a year from the moment it closed the TIC, £45,000 ‘purely on running costs’ and the rest on things like staffing and insurance.

Karen Hurden, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “I think its very sad it lies empty. It was a useful operation and it was very user-friendly, and people enjoyed going in there.”

She said a review of the current system, a network of tourist hubs around the town, was expected in October.

Jonathan Lloyd, of Hazells, the firm marketing the former TIC building, said: “It’s not a good time to be marketing because of the holiday period but we have had some serious interest.”