'We can get on' - Ipswich art venue plans win approval

Ipswich Historic Churches Trust will begin work to turn St Clement's Church into an arts venue.

Ipswich Historic Churches Trust won the support of Ipswich Borough Council to turn St Clement's Church into an arts venue. - Credit: JASON NOBLE LDRS

Work to turn one of Ipswich's most historic churches into an arts and music venue will get underway before the end of the year, after planning permission for the venue was granted.

Fresh planning permission for the Grade II* Listed St Clement’s Church off Star Lane was secured on Wednesday by the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust. 

St Clement's has been redundant for more than 40 years, and plans were first voiced in 2014 by a community interest company for the empty space to be transformed into a vibrant arts centre. 

The Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, which leases the building off Ipswich Borough Council, submitted plans for a venue that provided live music, exhibitions, community gatherings and conferences have been submitted.

Peter Brooks, chairman of the trust, said work on the first phase will begin in November after Spill Festival has used the space. 

“I am delighted with the decision and delighted we have planning consent – we can now get on with the next phase,” he said. 

“We don’t have huge numbers of facilities around the dockside in Ipswich, and perhaps as the university expands we will see more university events too.” 

Phase one will feature work to the floor and the lower parts of the walls where the floors join, expected to be finished by the end of February. 

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Funding for that phase of work has already been secured, and with this week’s planning approval the trust expects additional funding for the next phases to be secured. 

Mr Brooks said: “We will now be preparing our presentations to a number of funders we have identified. 

“We are talking about a Grade II* Listed building – we have a lot of work we need to do to it. Nothing is going to be done cheap so we will need a lot of money but we are confident. 

“This is not a one year project – it will take several years but it will get done.” 

Events have already been lined up for next spring and summer too, although details are not ready to be released at this stage. 

The renovation is also set to include transforming the outside area into a welcoming green space. 

Planning officers said the scheme would “add significantly to the vitality and viability of the town centre,” while Councillor Carole Jones said: “Everybody would wish to see this beautiful building brought back into some use for the benefit of the community.” 

Councillors also hoped its regeneration would alleviate the problem of street drinking in the grounds currently. 

The 15th Century structure is the last in a trio of medieval churches along the Waterfront to secure a new future. St Peter’s near the Novotel roundabout now operates as St Peter’s by the Waterfront music venue, while St Mary’s was transformed into Quay Place for Suffolk Mind. 

That closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, but is now re-opening as River Church.