Ipswich: BID plans to make the most of mobile technology

THE growing use of mobile internet access is at the heart of a new five-year plan to boost the fortunes of Ipswich town centre and the waterfront.

Business Improvement District (BID) company Ipswich Central has entered a second five-year term following overwhelming support for renewal of the initiative in vote by town centre businesses.

The approval of the plans last November by more than 90% of firms, on a 68% turnout, is the most resounding first renewal ballot success by any BID in the UK.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, said: “This gave us an enormous vote of confidence, but also a huge responsibility to deliver change to the town centre as well as the improved management services that we have historically provided.

“We have taken the past few months to look back at the last five years, to see what worked best for the town, and to make sure these elements are carried on in the next five years, at a greater level and with a fresh approach.”

Ipswich Central had also examined ways that consumers and town centres were changing, said Mr Clement, and a key concept for the next five years was to create an identity for Ipswich as “the waterfront town centre”

While improving physical links between the two areas was important, a more radical approach was needed to maximise their potential, he said.

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“Historically town centres were based on a built form, and consumers had to fit around what was provided for them, whereas in the post recession era the consumer is in control and they now are mobile,” said Mr Clement.

“When internet usage first took off, the fear was that we could do everything we needed without leaving our office desk or home computer, and so town centres could become redundant.

“Today, with hopefully the worst of the economic downturn behind us, a very different type of consumer emerges.

“Consumers place a higher value on their time, experience is of paramount importance and the forms of communication are different too.”

In the era of mobile internet, with people able to search for information on the move, Ipswich Central aimed to focus on linking people and technology to Ipswich as “a place to be”, added Mr Clement.

“There are some big plans this year to make sure that Ipswich stays ahead of other towns, making Ipswich a town that which people want to be in,” he said.

“Ipswich Central is committing that their digital platform will be way ahead of other competing locations in the way that it gives consumers a new experience of the place.

n For a full interview with Paul Clement on Ipswich Central’s plans, see next Tuesday’s BusinessEast supplement in the EADT.