What planners think of Ipswich County Hall plans ahead of Wednesday decision

PUBLISHED: 21:00 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:38 04 January 2020

Plans for the former County Hall in Ipswich are set for approval on Wednesday. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Plans for the former County Hall in Ipswich are set for approval on Wednesday. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR


Ipswich’s iconic former County Hall is set to be brought back into use after lying empty for more than 15 years.

The inside has been in a state of disrepair for years. Picture: VICTORIAN SOCIETYThe inside has been in a state of disrepair for years. Picture: VICTORIAN SOCIETY

The landmark building in St Helen's Street is to be converted into flats, with a new building behind making it a total of 40 homes.

Harris and Wilton lodged the plans more than a year ago, but proposals are finally in a position to be brought to Ipswich Borough Council's planning committee next Wednesday, where it is recommended for approval.

In their report, planning officers said development of the Grade II Listed structure would be "a well designed and sustainable form of development that would function well and be well integrated with adjoining areas."

Approval of planning permission is dependent on legal agreements being drawn up for developers to contribute cash for education, including £49,788 for primary education, £22,378 for secondary level and £33,192 as a pre-school contribution.

Around £122,000 is also sought to fund public open spaces.

The application will see the main building become 10 flats of one, two and three bedrooms, while the extension behind will provide a further 30 one and two bedroom flats.

The building was last used in 2004 when it was the headquarters for Suffolk County Council.

The main building was constructed in 1836 as a gaol and court, although extensions added in 1906 allowed it to be used as a council facility.

Notably, the courtroom made international news in 1936 because of its involvement in the Abdication Crisis (see below).

Carole Jones, Ipswich Borough Council's planning portfolio holder last year said it was "vital" it was brought back into use as it was "one of our most important buildings".

Architect Lionel Thurlow on behalf of the developers said: "We are pleased by the recommendation - we have put in a lot of work with the local authority who have been very proactive in bringing the project forward.

"Without doubt the building is really very important in Ipswich and it's a unique statement of the town."

Images released in 2012 revealed the damage inside, with evidence of vandalism, lead theft and drug use, prompting Harris and Wilton to put in a separate application to
carry out urgent repairs over the winter.

It represents one of a string of projects on the east side of the town centre, which include the development of the former Odeon as a new home for Hope Church, while the empty Mulberry Tree pub is to become a new Kurdish centre.

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County Hall and the 1936 Abdication Crisis

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

Mrs Simpson met Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1931 while still married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson - a shipping executive and former Coldstream Guards officer.

Having fallen for the royal Prince, and allegedly becoming his mistress, the County Hall was where she had her divorce bid granted, amid claims that Mr Simpson had committed adultery, which paved the way for her to marry Edward, then becoming King Edward VIII.

It sparked the 1936 Abdication Crisis, where King Edward's marriage to a woman with two living ex husbands was deemed controversial. The King abdicated in order to marry Mrs Simpson, leading to his brother George ascending the throne as King George VI.

During the weeks leading up to the hearing, Mrs Simpson lived in Felixstowe.

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