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A nightspot - over my dead body!

PUBLISHED: 13:10 24 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:08 03 March 2010

FURIOUS neighbours fear a proposal to turn one of the most historic churches in Ipswich into a nightspot could lead to people literally dancing on the graves of the town's dead.

FURIOUS neighbours fear a proposal to turn a historic Ipswich church into a nightspot could lead to people dancing on the graves of the town's dead.

A development firm wants to turn St Lawrence's church, in Dial Lane, into a restaurant bar. It is applying for the same use as that granted to Pals in the Buttermarket Centre.

A similar application was granted two years ago, and this time it is not expected to face too many obstacles.

But owners of nearby

businesses are furious about the plan – warning it will hit their livelihoods and will be

disrespectful.

Bob Zablok of the Chocolate Boutique, which is opposite the redundant church, said: "They want to build an extension to the church over the old graveyard.

"There will be people literally dancing on the graves of those buried there.

"It will have a devastating effect on us here and many of the other businesses in Dial Lane. This building has been here for 500 years and I don't know what effect the

construction work would have."

His views were backed up by Roger Halfyard of Pickwick's coffee shop next to the church.

He currently uses part of the south churchyard for tables in fine weather – but will not be able to do this if the conversion goes ahead.

He said: "They want to squeeze all they can out of this town, no matter what. It will kill my business and it seems so

disrespectful to the people who have worshipped in the church and are buried in the grounds."

Both Mr Zablok and Mr Halfyard are concerned about the disruption likely to be caused to the area of the church during

conversion work.

The church became redundant in the early 1970s. It came under the care of the Ipswich Historic Churches' Trust in 1979.

Now developers Design Site Limited have lodged the planning application and are hoping to find an operator to run a business there if it is granted.

"It really has to be an operation of this type to generate enough

revenue to maintain the fabric of the building," said Simon Capel of the Bristol-based company.

"It is an important building for the town and we would want to enhance that – but it does require some work."

The extension on the south side of the church would be in glass so the side of the church could still be seen, he said.

Home Office approval would have to be sought before memorials on the south side of the church can be moved to the north – but that is not expected to prove a major hurdle.

St Lawrence's church dates from the Middle Ages, although its tower was rebuilt and it was redesigned internally during the Victorian period.

Its bells are the oldest in Ipswich and since the tower was repaired a few years ago have been rung

regularly.

They are believed to be the only bells in town still in existence which Cardinal Wolsey would have heard as a child.

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