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Ipswich: Hopes of transforming church still a way off – but community centre dream close to reality

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:04 26 March 2013

Two years on: Manwar Ali outside St Michael's Church in Fore Street, Ipswich, as the second anniversary of the fire which destroyed the building approaches

Two years on: Manwar Ali outside St Michael's Church in Fore Street, Ipswich, as the second anniversary of the fire which destroyed the building approaches

Archant

Scaffolding still dominates the exterior of St Michael’s Church more than two years after a devastating blaze left a group’s dream for the building in tatters.

But today, officials at Islamic charity Jimas, the building’s owners, are full of hope once again.

Because while the future of the Upper Orwell Street church is still a mystery, they believe they will be able to finally create the community hub they have yearned for, at the nearby church hall in Bond Street.

Jimas chief executive, Muhammad Manwar Ali, said the group has raised about £100,000 since the devastating blaze on March 7, 2011, and there are other assets which could be sold to fund the project.

He added: “Things have moved on but it is very slow.

“We have now raised enough money to develop the community hall and we are still fundraising.

“If I raise the funds and sell the building then by the end of next year we can transform the church hall into a community hall.”

St Michael’s Church was closed in 1997 and was bought by Jimas in 2010, with the aim of creating a community centre for everybody in Ipswich to use.

The fire took place just a few months after that and gutted the interior.

Fire officials at the time said they were 99% sure the blaze was started by arsonists.

It is estimated that it would still cost £1million to complete any kind of work on the church and would potentially cost between £20-30,000 to preserve each year.

There have been a number of options on the table for the church building itself but Manwar Ali said he is currently focussing on creating the centre.

He added: “I’m desperate, I’m getting tired of the different options.

“I just want the place to develop, get people to start using it and take it from there.”


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