County Hall’s renaissance is a cause for real celebration

County Hall/Register Office proposals
Wedding Hall

County Hall/Register Office proposals Wedding Hall - Credit: cont

The best news of the week, at least so far as I was concerned, was that the former County Hall building in Ipswich could have a new use at the heart of east Suffolk’s heritage.

Turning it into a new register office and a new Suffolk Record Office looks like a genius solution to a problem that has been blighting that part of the town for many years.

The only question is why wasn’t this considered years ago?

It’s a win-win-win for the town and the council. Last year Ipswich Register Office, in its comfortable but frankly unspectacular venue in Rope Walk, saw 321 wedding and civil partnership ceremonies.

How many more people would opt for a register office ceremony if the ceremony was in a spectacular venue like the old council chamber?

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I’m also told that while the application is by the developer and current owner of the building, officials from the county have been involved from the start – and it is extremely unlikely that the proposal would be turned down.

It is also clear that there is a strong team at Endeavour House looking to move the Ipswich record office to the rest of the historic St Helen’s Court.

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Yes, there are technical problems and they are still working on these – but it is clear that everyone is looking for a way to make this work, looking for solutions rather than problems.

That’s great news because converting this building and bringing it back into use is much more than just being about restoring a Victorian pile. It should bring a massive economic boost to the eastern end of Ipswich town centre.

The register office should come first. With the planning application lodged and a fair wind behind it, there is no reason why formal permission should not be granted in the autumn and work start early next year.

We’ve all seen the pictures taken inside recently and there is work needed – but I’m told the building is basically sound and the conversion is not a major construction job.

By the time the register office is completed, hopefully the records office will be sorted out and work can seamlessly move along St Helen’s Street.

Which should mean that within a few years County Hall should be back in use as a centre of the community.

Can you imagine the effect that will have on the shops nearby? It’s the kind of news the County of Suffolk pub opposite has been waiting for.

It’s not the most attractive building in the world, but it is imposing and it does make a statement about the town and the county – and 10 years after the county council moved out there are many people ready to welcome it back home.

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