Ipswich: Fresh hope for crumbling County Hall as ‘for sale’ signs go up

For Sale signs go up at County Hall, Ipswich

For Sale signs go up at County Hall, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

The owner of County Hall in Ipswich has started a new campaign to try to sell it and find a new use for the iconic town centre building.

The state of the Victorian landmark has caused concern for years – it is on the borough council’s list of buildings at risk.

And concern increased last year after we were sent internal pictures showing how the building had been damaged by rough sleepers and drug users.

Now owner David Harris has broken his silence to tell how he wants to see the building brought back to life – and regain its place at the heart of the town’s life.

However he has warned that the economic conditions remain tough.

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His company, M&D Developments, bought County Hall after the council moved to Endeavour House in 2004.

Much of the estate – comprising unattractive offices built in the 1950s – has been redeveloped, but the headquarters in St Helen Court is Victorian and its listing prevented major changes.

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Mr Harris said: “We have acheived a great deal there, we have provided a significant number of homes at reasonable cost and restored several shops which has given a boost to the area.

“But when the crash came it was impossible to find anyone who wanted to do anything with that building.

“When we bought this Ipswich was a boom town – now it is a place that is struggling.”

Mr Harris said Ipswich remained a town that banks remained reluctant to lend to – it was not just a problem for his company, problems in the shopping centre and at the Waterfront told the same story.

But he hoped that by marketting County Hall, someone might come up with a new use for it.

He said: “We are looking at either selling the building or entering into a joint venture. I don’t know what its new use might be, that is open to negotiation but we are very keen to see it come back into use.

“We know how important it is to Ipswich and how much people care about it.”

He had been irritated by the coverage of the vandalism problems last year, but had taken the decision not to comment because he was working with the borough council and the police to try to sort out the problem.

Since then security had been improved, and this week “For Sale” signs have gone up.

Mr Harris said he had been frustrated about the treatment of some of those responsible for damage – one person had been taken to court after several thousands of pounds of damage was caused, but was only fined £100.

But he hopes that with the site secure, and more active marketting going on, something could finally happen at County Hall.

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