Ipswich: Bid for ‘Portas’ cash to ‘turn around the town’

BUSINESS Improvement District company Ipswich Central is spearheading a bid for funding under a Government scheme set up in response to a report on the future of Britain’s high streets by retail guru Mary Portas.

The Future High Street X-Fund is part of a second-phase package of “Portas Plus” measures announced by the Government in March as a first round of grant applications closed.

Whereas the initial “Portas” grants were targeted at smaller towns, with little or no formal town centre management structure in place, the �1million Future High Street X-Fund is intended for larger retail centres.

The cash will be awarded to towns able to demonstrate significant progress already achieved through town centre management alongside creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets.

Ipswich Central is being backed in its X-Fund bid by Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and University Campus Suffolk.

The bid seeks a sum of �150,000 to be used to help fulfil Ipswich Central’s vision of linking the traditional retail centre of the town with the Wet Dock regeneration area, to create a “Waterfront Town Centre”.

The submission has been titled “Turning Our Town Around”, reflecting the aim of creating a north-south axis – both in terms of the physical lay-out of the town and in the way people think about it – rather than the east-west axis of the main retail area.

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It aims to use the funding for two years of marketing and promotion to kick-start the revitalisation of key “transition” areas between the Waterfront and the existing town centre, with the goal of emulating the success of the St Nicholas Street and St Peter’s Street area, which already links the two zones with a mix of retail, restaurant and residential use.

No formal boundaries have been set but the project could involve areas including Lower Brook Street, where The Link scheme proposed by developer Wrenbridge includes new offices for media company Archant, which publishes the EADT, and Fore Street.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, said: “The impressions of people who have not visited Ipswich for five years will be way out of date. We need to get the message across to investors and to visitors that the place has dramatically changed.

“The partnership behind Turning Our Town Around is a fantastic example of a real private-public approach, in terms of what we have achieved so far on our journey and what we want to achieve in the future.”