Replica boat build could be paused over space row

The replica ship being build at The Longshed in SuffolkImage source, PA Media
Image caption,

The £1.5m reconstruction could have to be moved elsewhere over a dispute about space

  • Published

A replica build of the famous Sutton Hoo burial ship could have to be paused following a dispute.

A group of volunteers behind the £1.5m reconstruction of the boat in Suffolk have until July to cut back their use of their base to 40%.

The Sutton Hoo Ship's Company (SHSC) said the limited space at The Longshed, Woodbridge, would mean they would not be able to complete the project, describing the possibility as a "tragedy".

The leaseholder, The Woodbridge Riverside Trust, said the group had needed to renew an agreement to make use of more of the building and, despite reminders, this had not been done.

Image source, Jamie Niblock/BBC
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Jacq Barnard described the potential loss of the project as a "tragedy"

Jacq Barnard, project manager of SHSC, said the project had a year left but it would be "impossible" for them to make use of just 40% of the building as the ship is "bigger than that".

"To move the project would be a tragedy because we can't take it out the back of the building by road," she explained.

"We'd have to take it out the front of the building onto the river somehow.

"The expense of that would be enormous and we are a charity - we are constantly trying to fundraise to complete the build.

"So it would take an awful lot more fundraising and expense to get that done. It's just so disappointing."

Image source, Jamie Niblock/BBC
Image caption,

Sean McMillan said he remained optimistic a resolution could be found

Sean McMillan, trustee and chair of SHSC, said he remained optimistic the issue could be resolved.

"We will get there but we'd like to get a lot of things resolved quite quickly," he said.

"We cannot possibly continue to work and build this ship safely with only 40% of the building and we certainly can't entertain visitors in the way that we ought to and the way that they deserve."

Image source, Mercie Lack/National Trust/PA Media
Image caption,

The Great Ship Burial at Sutton Hoo is believed to have been the resting site of King Raedwald

While Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT) holds the lease for the building, Woodbridge Town Council owns it.

A previous restriction was put in place by the council that allowed SHCH 40% of the building - which the trust said was "probably considered sufficient at that time" - for a maximum of 10 years with "no possibility of extension".

However when the project required more space, the council agreed to allow them 56% of the building - which equates to 75% of the floor - and this was valid for three years expiring 13 July 2024.

The trust claimed that SHSC had been reminded of this expiration "several times" since January and prompted to apply to renew the provision but had reportedly chosen not to.

A spokesperson for the trust said it "actively" wanted SHSC's project "to succeed".

"If SHSC decide to lose some of the current space they have (from 14 July) by not applying to WRT to facilitate the renewal of the side-letter with the town council, that is their choice," they added.

"It will be of their doing, and not the doing of others."

Woodbridge Town Council has been approached for comment.

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