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Target date for re-opening of St Peter's in Sudbury set out as details of new charity partnership revealed

The grand reopening of a key Sudbury landmark has been targeted for the autumn, as further details are revealed of the venue’s partnership with a local charity to enhance its community impact.

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) confirmed that it hopes to stage a big community relaunch of St Peter’s in September, subject to the ongoing regeneration work remaining on schedule.

Progress on vital repairs and improvements at the venue on Market Hill, including the addition of a mezzanine gallery and new kitchen and toilet facilities, is around 60 per cent complete.

Sudbury St Peters. Picture: Mark Westley
Sudbury St Peters. Picture: Mark Westley

The update comes after the CCT announced a new partnership with a Sudbury-based social enterprise, The Bridge Project, which will be responsible for managing operations at St Peter’s once activities resume.

Whereas the site had been run on a voluntary basis, this collaboration will see the charity employ a new operations manager, as well as a learning and participation officer, to facilitate opportunities for schools and other groups.

It is also intended that The Bridge Project, which provides support services for disadvantaged adults in the Sudbury area, will host activities for its regular users at the venue, including a group for people with dementia.

Alli Burke, CCT development officer, said the increased range of activities and events is a key aspect of the work ongoing at St Peter’s, which has been backed by more than £1 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

“St Peter’s has always done really well as a place for community groups and external hirers, so this is building upon that previous success and extending the types of events taking place,” she told Suffolk News.

“It is building on what was already taking place, but shifting it from a hall for hire to putting on more activities in house.

“People will still be able to hire St Peter’s, but we will also deliver this broader range of activities.

“This partnership also creates the ability for the two organisations to apply for funding together, which is always much stronger than just one or the other.”

Along with improved facilities, the refurbishments at St Peter’s have also seen essential fixes carried out to the fabric of the former church building, including long-awaited repairs to the roof.

The CCT stated that, despite the potential for disruption because of the Covid-19 pandemic, work at the site has proceeded in line with the projected time frame.

It hopes that the venue can reopen to coincide with the annual Heritage Open Days in September.

Alli added: “From my experience, I get stopped frequently on the streets by people saying how much they have missed St Peter’s, but everyone is fully supportive of the project, because, if we weren’t doing this, it might have had to close.

“This will mean that St Peter’s stays at the heart of the community for the next 200 years at least, hopefully.

“If you search for Sudbury on Google, about 80 per cent of the images that come back have St Peter’s in them.

“It’s a landmark of the town and, when it reopens, it will be brilliant for the whole community.

“That will hopefully bring in more users, which will, in turn, help to support the wider local economy. I’m hugely optimistic that will be the case.”

Volunteers are still wanted to support St Peter’s, with Alli stating they will continue to play a critical role when the venue opens its doors once again.

Anybody interested in finding out more about the volunteering opportunities available at St Peter’s can do so by calling 07799 424078 or sending an email to aburke@thecct.org.uk.