Ipswich’s former BHS in the Buttermarket is set to become the new home of Sports Direct in the town later this year – and there will also be USC and Flannels shops as part of the new development.

East Anglian Daily Times: David Ellesmere with Elmer outside the former BHS last summer - now he has something else to smile about! Picture: David EllesmereDavid Ellesmere with Elmer outside the former BHS last summer - now he has something else to smile about! Picture: David Ellesmere (Image: Archant)

All are part of the Mike Ashley retail empire - and the move was confirmed after we revealed that the company was looking at taking over the store.

Sports Direct has bought the former BHS store which has been closed since the chain collapsed in 2016. There had been talk of splitting it into smaller shop and restaurant units - and planning permission had been obtained - but now it is set to remain as a large store.

A spokeswoman for Sports Direct said: "This is a major part of Sport Direct's brand elevation strategy that will see a huge investment in a number of new stores, while upgrading and improving existing ones across the UK.

"This is the strategic vision of the business as it aims to meet the demands of an ever more sophisticated consumer who is increasingly looking for not only good value, but an enhanced shopping experience."

There will be no need to apply to the borough for planning permission for its operations - the site is already a retail unit and will stay as such. But it will have to get permission for its fascias and branding - but that is not expected to be a major obstacle. The building is understood to be in basically good condition.

Sports Direct will move its existing store from the first-floor unit in Carr Street to the Butter Market.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said: "This is very good news on all fronts. It is a major vote of confidence in Ipswich town centre by a big retailer, it will bring one of the largest shops in the town back into use after four years of being empty, it will bring more choice for shoppers, and it will allow the re-invention of Carr Street into a mixed area to continue."

Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter was also very enthusiastic about the news: "This is just what the town needs. The town centre does need to contract physically, but its main stores need to be able to attract shoppers - and that is what this will do.

"The fact that Flannels and USC will also be in the store is very good news - it brings something new to the town. This is excellent for Ipswich."