Vision for Stowmarket takes shape
Councillors are set to discuss future plans for the John Peel Centre as part of Stowmarket’s emerging town vision at a key meeting next month.
Mid Suffolk District Council’s Cabinet is due to decide in the New Year whether to grant the John Peel Centre a new long lease on the former NatWest building - providing the venue with a ‘front door’ on to the Market Place to bring arts, leisure and entertainment to the town centre.
A proposed 40 year lease at a peppercorn rent would fulfil Mid Suffolk District Council’s vision of reviving the empty property as a new cultural and community venue as part of the broader Stowmarket Vision of a future for the town as a centre of excellence for creative arts, culture and technical innovations.
After NatWest closed its doors in September 2017, Mid Suffolk District Council purchased the property and planning permission was secured to enable the building’s use for food and drink, assembly and leisure.
Councillor Peter Gould, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for assets and investment, said: “This is really great news for Stowmarket and will provide a major step forward as we look to make the town a gateway into Suffolk and the ‘go to’ place for arts, entertainment and culture.”
Cllr Gerard Brewster, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for economy, said: “This is an example of how we are investing in the future regeneration of our towns. By giving people a new and exciting place to visit we can increase visitor numbers to the town, which will provide an economic boost as well.”
The centre’s expansion is among a number of exciting developments set to help the town’s post-Covid recovery:
The new look Regal Theatre is benefiting from £3.6m of investment for a comprehensive expansion and refurbishment programme which will see it boast three modern cinema screens, improved audio-visual experience, as well as a new front of house, café and bar area.
Works are also being undertaken to restore and preserve many of the original features of the existing building built in 1936.
Two additional auditoria and a new café have been added in recent months.
Across the wider town centre, funding has also been secured from the Department of Transport’s Active Travel fund for the installation of bicycle storage in the town centre. These are now in place.
A second phase of Active Travel Fund will explore the potential to create new cycle routes through the town linking key sites and open spaces. Proposals for the second phase have been published by Suffolk County Council and are now open for consultation on their website.
Work as part of the wider Stowmarket Vision includes plans to create a National Museum of Food at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Iliffe Way, a new Festival for 2021, plans to grow the hugely successful Innovation Labs and development of plans to reuse empty shops and show windows.