Former Odeon cinema could be converted to church by summer 2019
The former Odeon cinema on Major’s Corner in Ipswich could be set to open its doors again to the public in the summer of 2019 – not to film fans, but to evangelical Christians.
The Hope Church, which is currently based in Fore Hamlet, has applied to the borough for a change of use to turn the former cinema into a Place of Worship.
This would have two areas set aside as “Church Auditoriums” on the ground floor and the second floor, in what were the two largest cinema screens, with other screens being converted into children’s activity rooms and a conference space.
Elder Tom Scrivens said the church had negotiated to buy the building from its current owner – who is also the owner of the Empire Cinemas chain.
Mr Scrivens said: “If change of use permission is granted, we anticipate that it may take a year or so before the church makes a full move to the former Odeon building, although it’s plausible that some activities could take place there before that time.
“In the meantime the church will continue to meet at the Orwell Centre on Fore Hamlet for its midweek activities and on Sundays at 9.30am and 11.15am.”
The proposal is likely to be discussed by Ipswich council planners in late May or early June – and is not expected to get much opposition.
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The application says that its busiest time is on Sunday morning when about 350 people attend services at the church – but this is when there is the lightest demand for the hundreds of car parking spaces nearby in the town centre.
As well as being used for church services, it would also provide community services. Mr Scrivens said: “As a church we’ve been involved in many different initiatives over the years for the good of the community and we continue to do so.
“It’s our desire to see the former Odeon building not just as a larger venue for our Sunday services, but to be a hub where initiatives can grow and thrive for the good of people of all ages and backgrounds.”
The planning statement submitted to the borough council says the project will be funded from donations from church members and from a bank loan – the total cost of the project is expected to be well over £1million. Although the building has not been used since 2005, a survey last year showed it was in good condition.
Civic leaders welcome church move to former Odeon in Ipswich
News that the Hope Church is hoping to go ahead with the purchase and conversion of the former Odeon cinema has received a warm welcome in the town.
Borough council leader David Ellesmere said the conversion still required planning permission – but felt most people would welcome the move.
He said: “That building has been empty for well over a decade now and there have been no realistic proposals from anyone to turn it into a commercial venue.
“This proposal would bring new life into the building and I am sure most people in Ipswich would welcome the fact it will no longer be sitting there unused.”
Ipswich Central chairman Terry Hunt agreed: “It is fantastic news that such a prominent building is coming back into use. I am really optimistic about the future of the town centre now with all the development going on in the area, and this is another major improvement for the area.”