The history and pageantry of St Edmundsbury’s status as a borough should not be lost with the creation of a new West Suffolk council, leading community figures have said.
The Bury Society says consideration must be given to the heritage of the borough including the mayoralty, which one councillor has described as a ‘glue that cements our community’.
West Suffolk Council, a district authority with a chairman rather than a mayor, is set to replace St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils, though once established, it can apply to the Privy Council for borough status.
In a letter to St Edmundsbury, Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society, raised concerns about the potential loss of identity - noting Bury St Edmunds’ association with borough status dated back to 1606.
He said: “Can assurances be given that any decisions regarding Bury St Edmunds are made with consideration for our heritage and history by politicians who actually care for Bury St Edmunds?”
Cllr Julia Wakelam, who was mayor of St Edmundsbury in 2016 /17, also called for the new authority to apply for borough status and stressed the importance of the mayoralty.
“When I gave my farewell speech at mayor making last year I emphasised that it taught me how much people value being visited and acknowledged by the mayor,” she said.
“We’re the public face of the borough and hence the community.
“It’s a glue that cements our particular community together.”
Cllr Margaret Marks, who will be the last mayor of St Edmundsbury when she takes office this year, said it would be ‘mortifying’ to lose the mayoralty.
“Could you imagine Buckingham Palace without the changing of the guard” she said. “It’s all these small historic elements that make us the Great Britain we are and we need to hang on to them.”
She said that even if the new council pursues borough status, the community could be without a mayor for at least a year.
Orders to create the new council are expected to be laid in Parliament before the end of this month with elections being held in May 2019.
In a joint statement, St Edmundsbury Cllr Carol Bull and Forest Heath Cllr Ruth Bowman, chairman and vice-chairman of the future governance steering group, said: “Both Councils understand the importance of each other’s historic status and the importance of civic leadership.
“In view of this our councillors have already agreed that this matter of borough status and civic leadership will be looked at this year by the shadow authority when it is formed.”
“We would encourage residents to make their views known.“