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Work to begin to transform Ipswich's St Clement's Church, which has been redundant for at least 40 years, into arts centre and music venue before end of 2021 after plans approved



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Fresh planning permission has been granted for a redundant Ipswich church to become an arts centre and music venue - and project bosses say work will begin before the end of the year.

The Grade II* Listed St Clement's Church off Star Lane has been redundant for more than 40 years, and plans were first voiced in 2014 by a community interest company for the empty space to be transformed into a vibrant arts centre.

Planning permission was granted in 2016, but work never progressed as adequate funding could not be raised.

St Clement's Church in Ipswich, which has been granted planning permission to become an arts centre and music venue. Picture: Jason Noble LDRS
St Clement's Church in Ipswich, which has been granted planning permission to become an arts centre and music venue. Picture: Jason Noble LDRS

Now the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, which leases the building off Ipswich Borough Council, is pursuing its own plans for an arts centre, and on Wednesday morning secured planning permission and listed building consent for it to become a venue and arts space.

Peter Brooks, chairman of the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, said work on the first phase will begin in November after Spill Festival has used the space.

"I am delighted with the decision and delighted we have planning consent - we can now get on with the next phase," he said.

St Clement's Church in Ipswich, which has been granted planning permission to become an arts centre and music venue. Picture: Jason Noble LDRS (51507954)
St Clement's Church in Ipswich, which has been granted planning permission to become an arts centre and music venue. Picture: Jason Noble LDRS (51507954)

"We don't have huge numbers of facilities around the dockside in Ipswich, and perhaps as the university expands we will see more university events too."

Phase one will feature work to the floor and the lower parts of the walls where the floors join, expected to be finished by the end of February.

Funding for that phase of work has already been secured, and with this week's planning approval the trust expects additional funding for the next phases to be secured.

Mr Brooks said: "We will now be preparing our presentations to a number of funders we have identified.

"We are talking about a Grade II* Listed building - we have a lot of work we need to do to it. Nothing is going to be done cheap so we will need a lot of money but we are confident.

"This is not a one year project - it will take several years but it will get done."

Events have already been lined up for next spring and summer too, although details are not ready to be released at this stage.

The renovation is also set to include transforming the outside area into a welcoming green space.

Planning officers said the scheme would "add significantly to the vitality and viability of the town centre," while Councillor Carole Jones said: "Everybody would wish to see this beautiful building brought back into some use for the benefit of the community."

Councillors also hoped its regeneration would alleviate the problem of street drinking in the grounds currently.

The 15th Century structure is the last in a trio of medieval churches along the Waterfront to secure a new future. St Peter's near the Novotel roundabout now operates as St Peter's by the Waterfront music venue, while St Mary's was transformed into Quay Place for Suffolk Mind.

That closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, but is now re-opening as River Church.

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