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What's the real cost of church work?

PUBLISHED: 09:11 24 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:57 02 March 2010

ST LAWRENCE Church is one of Ipswich's jewels. It is a tragedy that it has stood unused, if not uncared for, for the last 30 years.

So I was delighted when it was announced last year that it would be converted into a new home for the Age Concern tearoom in Ipswich.

ST LAWRENCE Church is one of Ipswich's jewels. It is a tragedy that it has stood unused, if not uncared for, for the last 30 years.

So I was delighted when it was announced last year that it would be converted into a new home for the Age Concern tearoom in Ipswich.

Now that dream is set to go the same way as other proposals for the church as the costs spiralled from £200,000 to £500,000, and continued to rise.

The £200,000 figure always looked far too low, especially as the diocese spent nearly £1m on St Nicholas' church and that didn't need a complete new floor.

But what puzzles me about the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration at Ipswich Council is its general attitude to big projects in the town.

It is baulking over spending an extra £100,000 on the church - the council was apparently happy when the cost went up to £400,000 but now cannot afford to pay £500,000 - yet it is still able to offer £1million to the Friends of Broomhill pool to help restore that.

I'm probably just a bit cynical, but I can't escape the feeling that the £1million offer is a bit of a gesture.

The council will give that money only if the Friends of Broomhill raise the rest of the money needed to restore the pool - estimated at a further £3million - is raised privately.

And councillors know that kind of money is unlikely to be raised - meaning their £1 million offer will never actually be taken up.

The extra £100,000 for the church, on the other hand, is a firm commitment that would have to be made and the council is simply unable to afford that money.

Whatever the reasons for the collapse of the Age Concern proposal, I do hope that someone, somewhere comes up with an imaginative plan for a new use for the church.

With proposals now underway for two new shopping centres at either end of the town centre, surely someone somewhere has the vision to find a use for such a large, attractive building right in the town centre.

I LOVE Suffolk and enjoy its countryside - but we do have to guard against preserving it in aspic and, even worse, making it too exclusive.

So I hope the eminently sensible proposal to build 64 log cabins at Waldringfield is given the go-ahead by planners next week.

While I can understand the wish of villagers to prevent their homes from being “swamped” by new development, I fail to see how a small development like this will swamp anything.

And what is wrong with log cabins? They're hardly the most unattractive holiday homes you can imagine - what would local people think if someone wanted to put 64 multi-coloured caravans on the land?

What this development will do is bring in a few hundred more holidaymakers to Suffolk during the summer - and frankly they're likely to be just the kind of holidaymakers the area wants and needs.

They'll be the kind of people who go out and spend money in Suffolk resorts like Felixstowe and Aldeburgh.

They'll be the kind of families who'll pay entrance fees at Easton Farm Park, Orford Castle, and Minsmere nature reserve.

And they'll be the kind of families who bring buy meals in the areas pubs.

In short it's just the kind of development that a tourist area needs - yet still the Nimbys don't want to see the development.

Their argument does seem to smack of the attitude: “We've got a nice area here and we don't want to share it with any tourists - unless they've got enough money to have their own yacht!”


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