Ipswich arts centre plans for St Clement's Church approved

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Dead Rat Orchestra
Image caption,
Dead Rat Orchestra appeared when a gig was held at the church in 2016

Fresh planning permission has been granted to turn a church that has been redundant for more than 40 years into an arts and music venue.

Plans were first voiced by a community interest company to transform St Clement's Church in Ipswich in 2014.

Planning approval was obtained in 2016 but work did not progress as adequate funding could not be raised.

The project has since been taken on by Ipswich Historic Churches Trust which said work should start this year.

The Trust leases the Grade II listed building from Ipswich Borough Council and secured planning permission and listed building consent from that authority for it to become a venue and arts space, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Trust chairman Peter Brook said work on the first phase would begin in November after Ipswich's Spill Festival had used the space in October.

He said the first phase would feature work to the floor and the lower parts of the walls where the floors join, and was expected to be finished by the end of February.

Funding for that phase of work had already been secured and, with Wednesday's planning approval, the Trust expected to be able to attract additional funding for the next phases.

Image source, Simon Knott
Image caption,
Ipswich Historic Churches Trust which said work should start this year on the church, which is next to Fore Street swimming pool

Mr Brook said he was "delighted" to have planning consent and was confident they could secure funding to complete the scheme.

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

St Clement's Church, on Star Lane, dates back to the 15th Century, but has been closed since 1979.

Gig-goers had a glimpse of its future when it hosted its first musical event in recent times as part of the Spill Festival in 2016.

In 2020, a heritage and wellbeing centre based at St Mary at the Quay Church closed as it was too costly to run, but the medieval church has been taken over by the HTB Network, and is due to launch as River Church on Sunday.

In neighbouring counties, Norwich Arts Centre and Colchester Arts Centre have both been created in deconsecrated churches, while Ipswich's St Lawrence's Church and St Peter's Church have both been converted for other uses, including arts events.

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