A town's former Laura Ashley store is set for a new lease of life.

The shop in Beccles has been vacant since the high street retailer closed the store in 2018, but now a Christian group is poised to open it as a community venue.

The re-modelled building, which will be known as The Hive, is about to open its doors to the public, offering state-of-the-art facilities for hire to community groups, charities and businesses. 

Re-modelling the building into a community facility was made possible by a fundraising effort totalling more than £500,000.

Members of Life Church Beccles have raised half of that money and were also supported by grants from the Benefact Trust and the Costa Foundation.

Eastern Daily Press: The Hive's main hall in the old Laura Ashley shop in BecclesThe Hive's main hall in the old Laura Ashley shop in Beccles (Image: The Hive)

A special thanksgiving service will be held at The Hive on Sunday, May 5 to which members of the public are invited.

The event starts with coffee at 10am followed by the thanksgiving service and food, music and fun for children from 12.30 p.m.

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Life Church Beccles was founded in April 1985 by a group of Christians who were looking for a less traditional and more informal expression of church and it has previously met in local school halls and, latterly, at the Waveney Centre in New Market.

More recently, the idea of owning its own building became part of a longer-term vision to provide a building which would not only serve as a home for the church but also provide a modern facility for use by community groups.

The building has a large auditorium for larger groups and three meeting rooms which can be hired separately or together.

Eastern Daily Press: The former Laura Ashley store on Newgate in Beccles taken in 2022The former Laura Ashley store on Newgate in Beccles taken in 2022 (Image: Google Maps)

There is a café area and a kitchen for groups to use, and audio-visual equipment, and free Wi-fi.

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Stuart Gordon, one of the trustees of the charity which owns The Hive, said: "Like many building projects at a time of high inflation, the actual cost of re-modelling the building exceeded the original budget.

"We are indebted to the generosity of our own members and to the support of grant-making trusts such as the Benefact Trust which enabled us to finish the project.

"We were also fortunate in our choice of building contractor, Duncan & Son Ltd, who have completed the work to a very high standard."