September 21 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Only a day after we revealed that the former County Hall building in St Helen’s Street in Ipswich is set to become the town’s new Register Office, it has emerged that the rest of the building could be a new Records Office for Suffolk.
A planning application has been lodged to turn the north west end of the building – centred on the former council chamber – into a Register Office and Wedding Hall.
Now we have learned that county council officers are looking at the possibility of turning the rest of the historic St Helen’s Court building into a new records office for East Suffolk.
This would mean moving the records from their current site in Gatacre Road, and could also include records held by University Campus Suffolk – creating a major educational resource for the town.
The former courtroom where Mrs Simpson was divorced in 1936 and later became the county council committee room could find a new use as a public reading room for people searching records.
The potential new uses for the building, which has been out of use since the county council moved to Endeavour House in 2004, follow on from a tour of the building by county council leader Mark Bee and borough leader David Ellesmere earlier this year.
There are still potential problems that need to be addressed before any conversion of the building to a records office could proceed.
The building was originally constructed as a court house for the Ipswich prison which was on land behind County Hall.
On the ground floor there are a number of old cells that would be needed to store valuable manuscripts – but the Victorian prison cells are damp and would need alterations before any such use. Any changes would need to take account of the building’s listed status.
Mr Ellesmere said that during his tour with Mr Bee they had looked out of a window to the current Register Office, and the idea of moving it came to him.
“I think I was the first person to suggest that, but I’m delighted it’s been taken on,” he said.
There had been talks between the borough and the current owners of the building about a future use, and when the application for the change of use had been submitted earlier this month there was general satisfaction at his authority.
Mr Ellesmere said: “This is a very welcome development – it would give the town a wonderful new wedding venue and help regenerate a very important building. It’s great news.”
If the current Register Office came on the market in the wake of the move, the borough would consider buying it to add to its property portfolio or to redevelop the site, he added.