Town Councillors “Outraged” At Loss Of Barnstaple’s History


Barnstaple Town Council has resolved to fight to prevent the relocation of the town’s most important historical records to Exeter, or possibly even Taunton.

A motion passed by the Full Council highlighted proposals by South West Heritage Trust (SWHT) to remove Barnstaple’s town charters and thousands of other documents tracing local history from 1150-1950 from the Records Office at Barnstaple Library. The most likely destination would be the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter, although it is also possible that records could be located at SWHT’s other main centre in Taunton.

The proposed change has been brought about by spending reductions on heritage services by Devon County Council, and it is thought that the space freed by the closure of the Records Office will be used to provide County Council staff with office space following the closure of the Civic Centre in Barnstaple.

Barnstaple Town Mayor Cllr Mrs Val Elkins said “These records are a vital part of the town’s heritage and must be kept in Barnstaple. Anything else would be an insult to the local community. The Town Council and other local organisations have come forward with offers to help find ways of keeping the documents in the town, but as with so many of the County Council’s spending cuts, they seem to make the decision without exploring alternatives with the people who are most affected. I feel sure there must be a way in which we can help them save the money without moving our records so far away.”

Town Clerk Will Austin said he had already invited SWHT and the County Council to meet with Town Councillors. “I’ve heard from many local historians and residents who are appalled at the prospect of the records being taken away. One even described it as a kind of ‘identity theft’ for the town! I have been told that SWHT intend to make the records available electronically, but I think they do need to recognise the strength of feeling locally. Another resident told me that it’s a bit like saying ‘we’re taking away the Albert Clock but we’ll leave you a cardboard cut-out in its place. It’s just not the same.’ The records belong to the town and it really ought to be the town that decides where they’re kept. I hope we can work with SWHT and the County towards a more reasonable outcome.

No timetable has been given for the move, although the County Council has previously indicated that it intended to move its staff from the Civic Centre in the latter part of 2015.

Anyone can help keep the pressure on to save the Records Office by signing the online petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-north-devon-record-office-and-local-studies-centre”.


 

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