Community hub for New Wolsey could transform Ipswich’s Civic Drive

A model of the proposed new Theatre Square on show at the New Wolsey. Picture: PAUL GEATER

A model of the proposed new Theatre Square on show at the New Wolsey. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre could get new rehearsal rooms and a headquarters for its work in the community as part of the redevelopment of the square in front of the building.

The New Wolsey theatre and the Civic Centre underground car park. Picture; PAUL GEATER

The New Wolsey theatre and the Civic Centre underground car park. Picture; PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

A new planning application for “Theatre Square” has been lodged with Ipswich Council to amend the scheme given planning permission three years ago.

Instead of creating a cafe/restaurant with its back to Civic Drive, the new application seeks permission for a larger building that would be used by the theatre to bring together a number of its services that are currently spread around the town.

The original plan to landscape the area in front of the theatre has also been substantially changed – instead of its being flattened and replaced by decking, the existing contours will be retained but improved to make it a more attractive area for visitors.

There would be more planting and new lighting installed – and the surface of the area would be more attractive in a bid to encourage more visitors to the area.

A proposal to put play equipment looking like a sailing ship has been abandoned – but the design of the changes can be seen in a model that is on display at the New Wolsey.

The application also seeks to extend the use of the surface car park on the site of the former Civic Centre offices by a further 10 years.

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It has been lodged by the owners of the site, Charterhouse Investments LLP, who are currently in talks with planning officers about the application.

It is expected to be discussed by members of the borough’s planning and development committee later in the year.

A spokeswoman for the New Wolsey said the theatre was currently extending its work in the community and needed more space that could be provided by the new building.

She said: “All the details have still to be agreed but I know there is a need for more space and this should help to address that. It will also be good to have some landscaping and some improved lighting outside the theatre.”

A timescale for the work has still to be drawn up – it will depend on when it is discussed by the council and whether planning permission is granted.

The theatre is currently having major work on its roof – but is open for business as normal.

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