Eight months on, how is Ipswich Vision shaping up?
09:00 29 February 2016
When the Ipswich Vision document was published eight months ago, we said we would review progress on the 21 pledges that were made by the partners.
These have been reviewed by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, one of the partners in the Ipswich Vision team and today we publish his assessment of how it has succeeded in its aims to transform the town centre.
The overall verdict is that some progress has been made – but more still needs to be done.
The most important element is the redesign of the Cornhill which could start next January if all the pieces fall into place – but there is still no final funding commitment from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership for it and the county council has still to undertake the work on Queen Street which has to be completed before the work on the Cornhill can start.
The Queen Street work is due to start in June and be completed in time for the Christmas shopping period. But that will be three years late. It was due to have been completed by November 2013.
Queen Street is vital because it will become the temporary home for Ipswich market while the Cornhill is rebuilt, and even if the money for the reconstruction work becomes available nothing could start at the beginning of next year if Queen Street is not finished.
Any delay to Queen Street could put off work on the Cornhill by another year – given the need to complete that in time for the Christmas shopping season.
There can be no excuse for any further prevarication from the county council on this vital scheme – if it is delayed again Suffolk will be blamed for delaying the rebirth of the county town.
The New Anglia LEP board is due to discuss its element of funding for the Cornhill – which could be as much as £1.6m of the £3.2m total cost of the scheme – at its meeting on March 23.
It is not guaranteed that it will be agreed – but Suffolk members of the LEP board are hopeful that they will be able to persuade their colleagues to back Ipswich’s case.
Mark Pendlington, chair of New Anglia LEP and the Ipswich Vision board said: “The regeneration of the Cornhill is at the heart of our exciting plans for Ipswich.
“The Vision board has shown what can be achieved when we all pull together, from many organisations, for the good of the county town of Suffolk. I look forward to presenting the plans to the LEP board at its next meeting in March.”
But the Ipswich Vision is about much more than the Cornhill and other elements of the town centre are starting to fall into place – although not as fast as some would like.
Big name stores are taking an interest in the town, but despite a number of closed stores in Ipswich they are finding it very difficult to find suitable premises.
Work on a potential new road link over the River Orwell between Cliff Quay and the West Bank is progressing well, but it still has not formally been approved and its completion is, at best, several years away.