Restoration plan for historic town hall site closed for five years
PUBLISHED: 10:27 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2020
A creative hub has been proposed as part of a significant scheme to revitalise a historic town hall site which has stood empty for almost five years.
Options for the future development of Lowestoft Town Hall are being explored following a Historic England-commissioned report.
And with the Grade II listed town hall building to be repaired and restored as part of the Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone, it will enable it to be brought back into public use.
With the 19th century building - owned by Lowestoft Town Council - having been vacant and unoccupied since spring 2015, the report recommends the creation of a centre for activities, events, creatives and artisans.
The 163-year-old building previously served as the headquarters for the former Waveney District Council until staff vacated the site in 2015 as part of a £13m accommodation programme that led to the creation of the authority's Riverside building on Canning Road.
The landmark building was transferred over to Lowestoft Town Council in 2017.
The next steps for development will be discussed at a public event on Friday, March 13 as representatives from Historic England, North Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone, East Suffolk Council and Lowestoft Town Council unveil proposals for revitalising the site.
As part of the Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone, launched by Historic England in partnership with East Suffolk Council, Lowestoft Town Council, East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust and Lowestoft Vision, Colliers International were commissioned to assess options for future uses of the town hall and the vacant land behind it, which is owned by East Suffolk Council.
A Historic England spokesman said: "The recommended option for the town hall will provide vital facilities for local people and, as a creative hub, will attract a large number of visitors to the area generating footfall to stimulate investment in other local properties.
"It is suggested that the land behind the town hall could be used for landscaped car parking space to support access to the area."
The next stage of the scheme is to seek funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund for detailed project development work.
The meeting to discuss the town hall's development takes place on Friday, March 13 from 3pm to 5pm and 6pm to 8pm at the council chamber, Hamilton House, Lowestoft.
There will be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentations.
Standing prominently on the historic Lowestoft High Street, the town hall opened in 1857 and was designed by Suffolk architect JL Clemence.
But its history of housing local governance goes back to 1570, when a town house and chapel were first established, and the original facility remained until a new town house was built in 1698.
The 19th century revamp features stunning stained glass windows made by glass artist James Ballantine as it is the most prominent architectural landmark in the historic old town of Lowestoft.
Mayor of Lowestoft, Alice Taylor, said: "Lowestoft Town Council is thrilled to pass this stage of our journey to redevelop the Town Hall, which is such an important part of the revitalisation of Lowestoft.
"The conclusions of this in-depth study by Colliers International independently reinforces what many people of Lowestoft want and gives us a great guide as we move on to the next step.
"The Town Hall is the civic centre of Lowestoft and holds a special place in many hearts.
"It's great to have this road map to a revitalised Town Hall and now it's time to move forward."
Craig Rivett, East Suffolk Council's deputy leader and cabinet member for Economic Development, said: "The town hall is an important part of the historic High Street and we are looking forward to working with partners to help give the building a new purpose which will benefit local people and visitors."
Edward James, Historic Places Advisor at Historic England in the East of England, said: "This is a really exciting project that will bring the old town hall back to life in a new role that will support the local community and Lowestoft's historic High Street."
Danny Steel, of Lowestoft Vision, said: "The restoration of the town hall is an essential part of the regeneration of our historic High Street.
"We are very fortunate to have some of the foremost experts in historic buildings from Historic England working with us.
"There is a lot of work to be done but the end result will worth the hard work."