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New plans revealed for former County Hall in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:21 28 December 2018

The former County Hall in Ipswich has been empty since 2004 Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The former County Hall in Ipswich has been empty since 2004 Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

An iconic Ipswich building which has lain derelict for nearly 15 years could be getting a new lease of life as flats.

The Grade II Listed County Hall in Ipswich could become flats if new plans are approved Picture: THE IPSWICH SOCIETYThe Grade II Listed County Hall in Ipswich could become flats if new plans are approved Picture: THE IPSWICH SOCIETY

The historic former County Hall offices in St Helen’s Street have been unoccupied since Suffolk County Council moved out in 2004 to Endeavour House.

Despite proposals in the intervening years that it could become a new registry office, or archives facility, those plans failed to gain traction, and a fresh application has been submitted.

The new plans propose to turn the existing County Hall into 12 flats of one, two and three bedrooms, and build a new accommodation block behind comprising two maisonettes and a further 28 flats.

The structure’s courtroom is noted for being the venue for Wallis Simpson’s divorce, which triggered the 1936 Abdication Crisis.

Concerns had previously been raised over the state of disrepair the building had been in Picture: LUCY TAYLORConcerns had previously been raised over the state of disrepair the building had been in Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The building, which is Grade II Listed, is set to retain its “iconic” features, according to the plans.

A report prepared by Thurlow Architects, said: “The County Hall previous Gaol building is a very distinctive building in the town and clearly an iconic building in style and features.

“The main features of this building are being retained and dominate the skyline in the form of the glazed lanterns and castellated towers/forms to the main entrance.”

It is not yet clear what protection will be in place for the historic courtroom.

Cllr Carole Jones, planning portfolio-holder, said County Hall was a vital building in Ipswich Picture: SU ANDERSONCllr Carole Jones, planning portfolio-holder, said County Hall was a vital building in Ipswich Picture: SU ANDERSON

The main structure dates back to 1906, although some elements were established in 1837 and a small portion originally from 1786.

The plans are currently open to public consultation, before going to Ipswich Borough Council’s planning committee, expected in late January or February.

Councillor Carole Jones, planning and development portfolio-holder at the borough council, said: “The old County Hall is one of our most important buildings and it is vital that it comes back into use.

“The council has been working hard to make progress with the applicant and we welcome this application without pre-determining the outcome by committee.

Images from 2012 revealed the building has fallen into a state of disrepair Picture: STEVEN KEAY/CHRIS BRIGHTImages from 2012 revealed the building has fallen into a state of disrepair Picture: STEVEN KEAY/CHRIS BRIGHT

“We also welcome the progress with the former Odeon building, which shows we can – and do – help to bring life back into some of our key buildings.”

The Odeon was given approval by planning committee to become the new home of Hope Church in May, with work currently underway at the site.

A spokesman from Thurlow Architects was unavailable for comment at the time of being published.

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