New-look New Wolsey coming as theatre Square rejuvenation project approved
PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 December 2018
The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich is set for a radical makeover after planning permission was approved for the development of the old borough council site and spiral carpark.
The theatre, in Civic Drive, will be externally remodelled as part of an ambitions plan to make a shared urban space covering the old ground of Ipswich Borough Council’s Civic Centre, the land above the spiral car park in Civic Drive and the external facade of the New Wolsey.
The result will be called Theatre Square and the planning permission for the project was approved by Ipswich Borough Council’s planning committee on December 12.
Plans include new greenery and new lighting installations – and the surface of the area would be more attractive in a bid to encourage more visitors to the area.
Black resin walls and a striking new gold canopy above the entrance are also planned for the theatre and a new public seating area on the ground level of the car park.
Sarah Holmes, chief executive of the New Wolsey, spoke at the meeting in favour of the plans, hoping it would bring about a positive change in the area after a robbery just metres from the theatre on December 10.
“When I turned up here at the turn of the century, the theatre was derelict and the civic space had blossoming petunias all over it,” she said.
“What we have moved from in those 18 years is people eating lunch under those petunias to a young man being robbed at knife point right outside the theatre.
“We now have a chance for a really glorious community facility that can be given to the town to be managed by the New Wolsey Theatre.”
Councillors debated the potential problems the development presented - including the delays it could cause to the plan to regenerate Ipswich’s Westgate Quarter.
The plan had initially requested a 10-year extension to the use of the Civic Drive surface car park up to 2029 - but an additional request to add two more years to the extension were also considered.
Ms Holmes said it “would be churlish” to stop the application in this form because the application requested a two-year extension to the temporary parking arrangements on the site until 2031.
A disabled drop-off point was also discussed. Having been rejected by Suffolk County council in favour of a proposed level crossing costing £75,000, the committee agreed that the theatre and area would still be accessible.