John Peel Centre handed vacant Stowmarket bank building

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Nick Gowrley, Sheila Ravenscroft and Gerard BrewsterImage source, Mid Suffolk District Council
Image caption,
John Peel's wife Sheila Ravenscroft (with councillors Nick Gowrley and Gerard Brewster) hoped to bring "real vibrancy" to the town centre

The John Peel Centre for Creative Arts has been given the keys to a vacant former bank to help gather public opinion on the building's future use.

NatWest in Stowmarket, Suffolk, closed its doors in 2017 and the building has since been taken over by Mid Suffolk District Council.

It has licensed the space to the John Peel Centre, whose building is to the rear of the bank, for five months.

If viable, local ideas for its use could be turned into reality.

The council said it bought the building for £351,000 with the intention of turning it into a community space - with the precise use becoming clearer as the public come up with ideas.

Change-of-use planning permission has already been granted to allow the building to offer food and drink, public assembly and leisure options.

Councillor Nick Gowrley said: "By working with the John Peel Centre, we can start to think about exactly how that could work - and how we might showcase the town's many attractions from this central site."

Image caption,
John Peel was the longest serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting from 1967 until his death in 2004

Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Peel lived in the Stowmarket area for many years until his death in 2004.

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His widow Sheila Ravenscroft, a patron of the John Peel Centre, said: "We take pride in the variety of original music, poetry, film, theatre, comedy and private events we already host at our centre in Church Walk, but this partnership gives us a presence right in the heart of the town.

"We're looking forward to exploring exactly how we can work together with the public to bring a real vibrancy into the town centre - that's a legacy John would have loved."

Centre director Andrew Stringer said that although they were in a partnership with the council, the arts venue "would love to take it over" in the long term.

"What we can really do [in the five months] is show the public the opportunity this lovely old building gives us," he said.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
The John Peel Centre, on Church Walk, backs onto the ex-bank and other buildings on Ipswich Street - Stowmarket's main shopping street
Image source, Mid Suffolk District Council
Image caption,
The former NatWest building on Ipswich Street has been empty for 18 months

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