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Could government cash boost hopes for new use for Ipswich’s old Post Office?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:11 28 July 2020

The council is spending £1m on repairing the roof of the Old Post Office on Ipswich Cornhill.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The council is spending £1m on repairing the roof of the Old Post Office on Ipswich Cornhill. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

With the government promising capital investment to boost town centres as the country emerges from lockdown, a wish-list of projects needing millions of pounds for improvements is being drawn up.

Near the top of the list is making improvements to the Old Post Office on the Cornhill. The building is currently having its roof repaired and is being made weather-proof but the work, which is costing about £1m, is not making any changes to the internal layout which is necessary if it is to be compliant with modern disability legislation.

Other schemes that could be seeking financial support from the government include developing a new arts centre on the Waterfront next to Dance East and repairing Arras Square.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said there were three potential revenue streams: the government’s new Towns’ Fund which is inviting towns to bid for up to £25m each, a one-off £1m grant that could be available in the short term, or a £32m fund administered by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

MORE: Where should Towns’ Fund money be spent?

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If a bid for the Old Post Office is successful, that could herald a new use for one of the most prominent buildings in the town centre. Mr Ellesmere said: “There is some very serious interest in the building, not from retail but from another sector, but the building would need to be made fit for modern use. That is why we are looking at the bid.”

The borough wants to create an Arts and Creative industry hub on the Waterfront next to Dance East – and the new Town Deal Board is expected to include that in a list it will draw up for government support.

The bid has to be sent to the Department for Housing and Local Government by the end of September – but the local board will have to demonstrate that any schemes that are put forward have public support.

It is expected to produce a list of potential projects over the next few weeks so a formal bid can be agreed by the end of September – giving it time to produce a full case for the government.

If finance for the Old Post Office comes from the Towns’ Fund, it is expected that the borough would get the money early next year, allowing work to start soon after the current repairs to the exterior of the building are completed – which could allow a new occupier to move in within the next two years.


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