Could Ipswich Ancient House become new community hub?

Ipswich Ancient House

Could Ipswich's Ancient House soon have new tenants? - Credit: Paul Geater

Ipswich's most historic shop - the Ancient House - could have a new future as centre for independent traders and community use if an imaginative proposal can be agreed with its borough council owners.

This newspaper has learned that a group of independent traders has opened negotiations with a view to taking on the building which dates from Tudor times.

Until the start of last year it was a branch of a Lakeland kitchen goods - and before that it had been a bookshop for decades.

However, now it is empty and the council, which owns the property, has been looking for a tenant for the Grade 1 listed building - its historic importance means it is a challenge to update it for 21st century retail.

Now three independent traders are hoping to set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) to take on the building and for it to be used for retail and a cafe.

There would also be space for a community use - and possibly an exhibition space showing the history of the town with a link to Ipswich Museum.

The cafe would have to be at the back of the building with its kitchen in an extension put up during the building's restoration in the 1980s.

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There is no timescale for the plans and no agreement has been reached with the council - but talks are ongoing and there are hopes that a scheme that should be attractive to both shoppers who regularly visit the town centre and visitors could be successful.

Borough officials are reluctant to say much about the proposals and have said they have had a number of expressions of interest in taking it on - they have shown several potential tenants around the building .

A spokesman for the borough said: "The council continues to talk to prospective tenants of the Ancient House and seeks to secure new occupants for this prime site as soon as a suitable agreement is reached."