A NEW community centre is to be created in a historic church thanks to a £3.6 million lottery grant.

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St-Mary-at-the-Quay by the Waterfront in Ipswich has been redundant since the 1970s – but will now be given a new life as a heritage and wellbeing centre.

The scheme has been put together by Suffolk Mind and the Churches’ Conservation Trust which owns the building – which dates from somewhere between 1450 and 1550.

The Heritage Lottery Fund confirmed the award after two years of working with the church and Mind to ensure the bid was successful.

The church will be converted into a centre that Mind says will provide a quiet and beautiful sanctuary in a busy, historic market town.

It should have a flexible and welcoming community space which is open to all. It will offer wellbeing and heritage activities, a centre for local events, complementary therapy as well as a café.

The project obtained funding on the basis that it will restore and rejuvenate an ancient building, create a sanctuary with a sensory medieval garden, reinstate significant heritage features making them accessible to all, link wellbeing and heritage in an innovative way, tell the diverse history of Ipswich waterfront in an engaging and interactive way and provide restored and modern facilities for community wellbeing and heritage activities.

Suffolk Mind business development manager Sue Gray said: “This is an exciting project that we hope will give people living in the community the opportunity to learn about how to improve their emotional health and wellbeing.”

Work should start on the project – which already has planning permission – next summer and was due to be completed by the second half of 2014, she said.

The cost was high because there needed to be considerable work to strengthen the building – and there would also be an extension built to the side.

Mrs Gray added: “The important thing is that this will provide facilities for the whole community. By linking heritage and wellbeing, we should be able to give people a real feeling that this is place where they feel that they belong. We would like to thank all those who have supported our bid, including Ben Gummer MP, Ipswich Borough Council, councillors and, of course ,our partners the Church Conservation Trust. The HLF grant will help us to make this project a reality.”

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