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Homes set to replace church when Ipswich Odeon opens for worship

PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 July 2020

The Orwell Centre in Ipswich, where Hope Church is based. Picture: JASON NOBLE

The Orwell Centre in Ipswich, where Hope Church is based. Picture: JASON NOBLE

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The building occupied by Hope Church in Ipswich’s Fore Hamlet is likely to be demolished and replaced by new council homes when the church moves to the former Odeon cinema next year.

The former Odeon in St Helen's Street, Ipswich which is going to become a new church. Picture: DAVID VINCENTThe former Odeon in St Helen's Street, Ipswich which is going to become a new church. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

The Orwell Centre, which was built as an office block in the 1960s, has been the home of the church since 1999. The building is owned by the borough council but it was leased to the church.

The council has now bought out the lease, but is leasing it back to the church at a peppercorn rent until December 2021 to give it time to complete the conversion work at the Odeon.

Borough leader David Ellesmere said: “The church will have time to finish its work on the Odeon and then we will take over the site. I don’t think this will be a case of converting the building into flats – I think we shall look at redeveloping the site for homes.

“We already owned the land and this seemed like a good opportunity to take back the building itself and build more homes there.”

The council paid £307,000 for the remaining 16 years of the 75-year lease that had dated from September 1961. A survey suggested that the current building had a limited life expectancy – but the site, including a piece of land that was owned freehold by the church, could be large enough for 25 to 30 new homes that would be built by the council’s housing company Handford Homes.

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It was bought during lockdown after consultations between senior officers and Mr Ellesmere, and the purchase is being discussed by the council’s executive next week which is expected to approve the deal.

The council is expected to survey the land and draw up the plans before the Hope Church has left the site, enabling demolition teams to move in soon after the last worshippers have moved out at the end of next year.

The Hope Church completed the purchase of the former Odeon in the autumn of 2018, but the work to convert it into a church and community centre has taken much longer than they had first expected.

MORE: New lease of life for former cinema

And the lockdown has further delayed progress – although things are now happening rapidly and church members are starting to look forward to when they can move into their new premises.

It had been empty since 2005 and had actually been closed for longer that it had been open – it was built in 1992.


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