New use beckons for historic church

A NEW community hub in the centre of Ipswich is expected to be open within the next two months, it was confirmed today.St Lawrence's Church, in Dial Lane, has been empty for 35 years since closing in the early 1970s.

A NEW community hub in the centre of Ipswich is expected to be open within the next two months, it was confirmed today.

St Lawrence's Church, in Dial Lane, has been empty for 35 years since closing in the early 1970s.

Thanks to grants totalling more than £1million, it is now being transformed into a community centre for the use of Ipswich residents, young and old, as well as local charities and organisations.

It will also be home to a new Age Concern tea room.


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Judy Terry, responsible for arts, culture and leisure at Ipswich Borough Council, said work to renovate the church should be complete by the end of next month ready for a mid-April opening.

“It can accommodate 150 people and can be hired out for parties and art exhibitions among other things.

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“We want people to use it as it is going to be there space. “We want them to feel they can hire it for special events.”

She said the church will have a kitchen and will be licensed to sell alcohol.

Of the more than £1million refurbishment cost, around £700,000 came from central government while £400,000 was put towards the project by Ipswich Borough Council.

The original idea of turning the church into a tearoom for Age Concern came from the former Labour administration in Ipswich.

Today Labour spokesman John Mowles welcomed the news that the church would be opening soon - but had concerns that it would not be able to cater for all the groups it was aiming at.

He said: “We hope it works, but it does seem as if the council is trying to get a quart into a pint pot - we shall see how things go over the next few months.

“We feel there is still need for a dedicated drop-in centre in the middle of Ipswich.”

Liz Harsant, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “We have to seek a change of use before it can open but I am absolutely certain it will go through.

“Everyone is looking forward to this new community facility.”

An application has this week been submitted to change the use of a town centre church to a restaurant and café ready for the opening.

The landmark building was nearly turned into a pub and restaurant in 2000 when JD Wetherspoon obtained planning permission from Ipswich Borough Council.

The application was later withdrawn.

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