Ambitious plans to transform a historic Grade II listed building into an exciting visual arts and cultural space have been unveiled.

Having been closed and vacant since 2018, a scheme of work to repair the historic character of Lowestoft’s former Post Office - funded by Historic England and the Towns Fund - was carried out last year.

Restoration work took place at the building - owned by East Suffolk Council - between January and November last year, and a celebratory evening was held two months ago to mark the progress made at the building.

And now, as part of a wider programme of regeneration in Lowestoft’s town centre, a new redevelopment scheme has been approved by East Suffolk Council’s cabinet.

The building, in London Road North, is located within the London Road, Lowestoft High Street Heritage Action Zone and is a flagship project within the Town Investment Plan.

It was bought by the former Waveney District Council in 2018 for redevelopment and to boost regeneration in the town centre.

Approval was given for a mixed-use commercial and residential development in March 2021.

A council spokesman said: "The arts space will be run by Messums, who are recognised for revitalising old buildings and embedding them within communities through artistic enterprise, and sculptor Laurence Edwards who began his art education in Lowestoft and subsequently developed an international reputation for large scale public works from his base in East Suffolk."

The hub, known as Messums East, will provide a working studio for Mr Edwards, in addition to spaces for a revolving residency of international, national and regional artists, as well as exhibition spaces and screening room, and a café/restaurant.

Mr Edwards will also be creating a large-scale bronze landmark sculpture for Lowestoft, casting it at his foundry in East Suffolk.

The council spokesman added: "He will work extensively with the local community from the new studio at the Post Office to see this realised."

With planning and listed building consent for the conversion of the building to a gallery to be submitted in the coming weeks, work on the sculpture is expected to begin when the building and studios open. 

The Lowestoft Heritage Action Zones are heritage-led regeneration schemes funded by Historic England and East Suffolk Council, delivered in partnership with the East Suffolk Building Preservation Trust, Lowestoft Town Council, and Lowestoft Vision.

'Cultural hub in the heart of the town centre'

Craig Rivett, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for economic development said: “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Lowestoft and has the potential to bring real benefits to the local economy and the community as well as the region more widely.

Lowestoft Journal: Craig Rivett, at Lowestoft's former post office prior to restoration works.Craig Rivett, at Lowestoft's former post office prior to restoration works. (Image: Mick Howes)

“As detailed within the Lowestoft Town Centre Masterplan and Town Investment Plan, culture and leisure are seen as key to regeneration of the town and similar creative projects elsewhere in the country have had a hugely positive effect on the local area, attracting large numbers of visitors and increasing footfall.

“Creating this cultural hub in the heart of the town centre with an internationally significant artist will bring in visitors who would not normally choose Lowestoft as a destination and will also attract further investment from other cultural and leisure providers, as well as providing essential community and educational opportunities."

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Towns Fund has paid £2,830,000 towards the project, and a further £452,305 has come from Historic England.

Tony Calladine, regional director for Historic England, said: "We’re delighted to support the restoration of the Post Office and to see work start to bring this historic Grade II listed building back to life as a creative visual arts space.

"It’s an exciting new phase to the London Road Lowestoft High Street Heritage Action Zone and an important part of Lowestoft’s regeneration."

Lowestoft Journal: Johnny Messum.Johnny Messum. (Image: Johnny Messum)

Johnny Messum, director of Messums Galleries, said: "The Post Office is a wonderful building and I am delighted that we are able to develop a venue for creativity in Lowestoft, using this facility and the art that can be produced there to inspire the imagination."