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Ipswich: Law firm set to build new HQ in heart of town

PUBLISHED: 09:18 10 June 2014 | UPDATED: 09:57 10 June 2014

Rileys Pool Hall, Ipswich.

Rileys Pool Hall, Ipswich.

Law firm Birketts LLP is hoping to build a new office block to be its headquarters on the site of Riley’s Pool Hall in Princes Street.

The existing building, which was originally the John Grose garage for the town, would be demolished and a new headquarters would be built for Birketts by developers Churchmanor Estates.

The site is currently owned by the borough council, and its executive is expected to discuss the possible sale of the land at its meeting next week.

However council leader David Ellesmere has already hailed the offer as a potential turning point for the town as it struggles to emerge from recession.

The fact that Birketts wanted to build a new headquarters near the town centre was good news for Ipswich – the new building would be the first major office development in the town since the borough’s own Grafton House headquarters was completed a decade ago.

Mr Ellesmere said: “This shows that a major employer not only wants to stay in the town, it also wants to expand in the town centre. That is a great vote of confidence in the future of Ipswich.”

The council’s executive is being asked to approve the sale of the freehold of the land for £245,000. At present it receives £8,750 a year in rental income from the land and discussions would be held to end the current lease on the site.

The site is between the town centre and the railway station, and the new offices would be large enough for Birketts’ 200 employees.

It would have its own car parking spaces – and there would be room for an extension to be built in the future if needed.

Jonathan Agar, chief executive officer for Birketts, said: “There is still some way to go but we are delighted to finally secure a new site after a nine-year search for suitable premises.

“Our roots are very firmly based in Ipswich but after several years of expansion we’ve simply outgrown our existing premises.

“Securing this site is essential to executing the firm’s long-term growth plans and continuing to provide our clients with a first class service.”

The council and the companies hope that the deal should be completed by July next year following talks with the occupiers of the current building on the site.

Stephen Clark, managing director of Churchmanor Estates, said: “We are delighted to have identified suitable premises for Birketts.

“We are working to a two-year schedule. Our immediate focus is to help secure planning consent for the site.”

Mr Ellesmere hoped that a deal for the Riley’s site could spark interest in other potential development sites on the other side of Princes Street on land also owned by the borough.

He said: “This is a very positive story for Ipswich and could open the door to further redevelopment in Princes Street.

“The Council and Churchmanor are successfully supporting Birketts to realise their ambitions while developing an area that is in need of regeneration.”

The council also owns the freehold of the former Fisons building on Princes Street that is due to be converted into modern offices.

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