Nearly 20 years after the council left Ipswich's County Hall work may begin soon to make homes within the building. 

In January 2020 Ipswich Borough Council approved an application from owner David Harris to build 40 flats in the former County Hall on St Helen's Street. 

However, a legal agreement between the borough and developer to ensure that certain works were undertaken has not yet been signed.

The borough council's Head of Planning & Development said: "They [the developer] do not have planning permission. They have a ‘decision to grant’ subject to the signing of a legal agreement. Until the legal agreement is signed they do not have planning permission and there is no listed building consent."

Before the agreement is signed, borough council officers and conservationists had told Mr Harris to conduct weatherproofing and renovation work in the Grade II* listed halls. 

Mr Harris said the work was completed four weeks ago. 

"We are very pleased to have worked with the officers and conservationists at the council and can't wait to get it through," he added.  

Mr Harris said Covid-19 had hindered his plans to do the required work, but has contacted council officers about the changes that need to be made.

Ipswich Star: The owner claims that Covid-19 had hindered his plansThe owner claims that Covid-19 had hindered his plans

He expects the agreement to be signed soon allowing them and their agents Thurlow Architects to carry out the proposed development.

The proposal will see the main building converted into 10 flats, while the extension to the rear added in the 1980s will be knocked down and a new extension added for a further 30 homes.

The site will feature 29 one-bed flats and 10 two-bed homes, with the former council chamber becoming a three-bed flat.

Conditions for approval yet to be fulfilled include financial contributions, including £122,000 towards public open spaces, £49,788 for primary education, £22,378 for secondary schools and £33,192 as a pre-school contribution.

This comes from a long drawn-out process of renovating this building since Suffolk County Council moved out to Endeavour House in Russell Road in 2004.

After that, the building fell into despair and was featured in the Victorian Society's 2012 list of Top Ten Endangered Buildings. 

The society showed how thieves, vandals and rough sleepers had broken into the building and left it in an appalling state.

The floorboards were broken, ceilings had fallen and leaks were coming in from the walls. 

Ipswich Star: In 2012 the hall entered Victorian Society's Top Ten Most Endangered listIn 2012 the hall entered Victorian Society's Top Ten Most Endangered list

Ipswich Star: Concerns were raised over the state it had fallen toConcerns were raised over the state it had fallen to

However, The Star was unable to get in contact with the building's owner back then.

The hall then underwent different applications with Mr Harris proposing a register office in 2015 - which eventually fell through. 

Meanwhile, the developers obtained permission to convert some nearby offices into 16 flats

Concerns had been raised over the state the building which had been allowed to fall into disrepair.

Ipswich Star: Cllr Carole Jones hopes the historic parts of the building are protectedCllr Carole Jones hopes the historic parts of the building are protected

Finally, these latest plans were revealed in 2018, and accepted in 2020, with portfolio-holder for planning councillor Carole Jones emphasising how important it was that renovation work was completed on the property. 

She had then said: "I am really delighted to hear the owners are concerned for the welfare of this building, but I do note it comes to us because officers have served an urgent work notice.

"This is a building at risk, a really important building for Ipswich."

Now that the work has been done, she hopes that the building work can commence and the historic part of the building can be protected. 

Ipswich Star: Mrs Simpson was divorced at Ipswich Court - allowing her to marry the Duke of Windsor.Mrs Simpson was divorced at Ipswich Court - allowing her to marry the Duke of Windsor. (Image: PA)

The main building dates back to 1836 when it served as a jail and court, but extensions in 1906 allowed it to be used for council business too.

The larger of the two courtrooms is to be retained as a heritage space and with the development it is likely to be open to the public on key occasions such as the heritage Open Days in September.

In 1936, Ipswich's County Hall became the centre of international attention when its court hosted the divorce proceedings of Wallis Simpson, which sparked the Abdication Crisis.