New occupiers for historic Waterfront merchant house being considered by council
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Work to restore an at-risk historic building on Ipswich Waterfront can begin after contractors were approved - and new occupants are already showing interest in filling the building.
The Grade II Listed former merchant house at 4 College Street has been on the buildings at risk register, with Ipswich Borough Council buying the building as part of a land deal in 2016 at the entrance to the Waterfront.
Planning permission was approved last August for the necessary works to save the building, and on Tuesday night the authority's executive signed off on the contractor set to undertake the work, expected to begin next month.
That work includes making it watertight and secure, providing utilities, and creating an office layout on the first floor with toilets, kitchen and flexible space downstairs.
Labour borough council leader David Ellesmere said: "It was in a very poor state of repair when we purchased it.
"The vast majority of works are required whatever the final occupier of the building may be, but there are some where it may depend on the final occupier.
"We have got interest already and we will not undertake any work that could either prejudice a future occupier or be unnecessary depending on who the future occupier may be.
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"The works give us the maximum amount of flexibility in order to successfully find an occupier for the site - it's very good news we are able to proceed with this site.
"We are showing we put our money where our mouth is, looking after these buildings and take this very historic building off the buildings at risk register."
However, while work to safeguard the building has been welcomed, debate has been ongoing for more than a year on how much work should take place before the masterplan for the Waterfront gateway area has been completed.
Mr Ellesmere said getting tenants in would allow it to start bringing in an income and be the best way to safeguard its future, but opposition Conservative group leader Ian Fisher had pushed for the authority to not pursue any more work than was needed to remove it from the at-risk register it at this stage and instead work on proposals for it to become a hub for the Waterfront's history.
"It's disappointing that once again the Labour administration have failed to see the potential for the 16th Century building at the entrance to the Waterfront and opposite Wolsey's Gate," Mr Fisher said.
"To turn this building into an office is totally unsuitable given the location and more thought needs to be given to what could be a building that highlights the history of the Waterfront through the ages.
"It's great that IBC secured this building for the people of Ipswich - let's give those people something to be proud of instead of yet another office, a totally uninspiring use of an historic asset."