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Ipswich museum all set for multi-million pound revamp

Planning permission for a multi-million pound revamp of Ipswich Museum has been granted, paving the way for the second stage Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

Proposals for the HLF-backed improvements have been through several iterations, but on Wednesday morning secured unanimous approval from Ipswich Borough Council’s planning and development committee.

Those plans will include ramps and a terrace for outdoor seating, repairs to boundary walls, new stairs and plant room, improved southern side facilities, new lift and staircase, café and new toilets.

Ipswich Museum (48769082)
Ipswich Museum (48769082)

The nature of the Grade II* Listed facility – which is effectively three separate buildings dating back to the 1880s, 1900s and the 1920s – has made access tricky for visitors and meant it has developed in an ad-hoc fashion.

Bosses say the revamp plans, which will be funded from £3m the council put aside several years ago alongside an HLF bid of £4.8m, will bring it up to date while respecting its Victorian heritage.

James Steward, Ipswich Museum manager, said it was an ambitious proposal but significant.

Ipswich Museum (48769080)
Ipswich Museum (48769080)

“One of the first publicly-funded museums in the country, it’s a purpose built museum of exceptional quality,” he said, adding: “The need for development and the need for preservation has been widely acknowledged”.

Securing planning permission is a prerequisite for achieving round two funding, the application for which is due to be submitted this August. A decision is then expected in January next year.

The plans, however attracted six public objections from those living nearby, the chief concerns being noise and disturbance, fears that the terrace will attract gatherings or anti-social behaviour and loss of hedging.

Ipswich Museum (48769084)
Ipswich Museum (48769084)

A tree in the courtyard where the terrace will be will also need to be removed and replaced.

Councillors agreed unanimously for granting planning permission and listed building works consent, but imposed a condition requiring a management plan for the outdoor terrace space after it opens to reassure residents.

Portfolio holder for museums and planning, Carole Jones, said: “I am absolutely delighted this important project has been passed by planning committee.”

Committee councillor Sam Murray raised the issue of access for those with mobility aids. She said: “I completely welcome these changes.

“It’s a beautiful thing we have on our doorstep, but for families it’s simply not accessible as it is. I think these changes will make a massive difference.”

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