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New conference centre to be created

PUBLISHED: 20:20 03 June 2003 | UPDATED: 13:57 03 March 2010

A NEW £750,000 conference centre is to be created in one of the most historic churches in Ipswich town centre.

The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich today submitted a planning application to turn St Nicholas Church into a major community centre.

A NEW £750,000 conference centre is to be created in one of the most historic churches in Ipswich town centre.

The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich today submitted a planning application to turn St Nicholas Church into a major community centre.

The church became redundant in 1985 and for 16 years was in the care of the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust.

The diocese bought it two years ago for a symbolic £1 and announced its plans to bring it back into use.

Diocesan House moved into Churchgates House, next to St Nicholas, that year – but it has taken two years for discussions with planners and conservation officials to reach the point where a formal planning application could be lodged with the borough.

The church itself dates from the 14th century. Its chief claim to fame is that Cardinal Wolsey was baptised there – his father owned a butcher's shop just around the corner.

A modern glass sided building will link St Nicholas' to Churchgates House, acting as reception area for both buildings as well as providing a place of meeting open to all.

"The 'hub' is cleverly designed to have as little contact with the fabric of the church as possible and to ensure that the ancient churchyard is not unduly disturbed," said diocesan secretary Nicholas Edgell.

"All interested heritage bodies have been briefed on our plans during a long consultation period."

The centre, costing £750,000, will generate income from lettings and enable part of the diocesan office building to be let, reducing central administration costs.

With plans to refurbish the sanctuary and create a new side chapel which will double as a meeting room, the centre will also provide a permanent home for the Suffolk Ecumenical Resource Library and Revelations bookshop.

On occasions it will also host the Diocesan Synod.

Diocesan officials are hopeful that there will be few problems in obtaining planning permission after extensive talks with officials.

Work should start later this year, or possibly early next year, and the diocese hopes the centre should be fully operational by Easter next year.

Weblink: www.stedmundsbury.anglican.org

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