Ipswich: Radical proposals aim to ‘turn around town’

St Peter's Street Market in Ipswich in full flow.

St Peter's Street Market in Ipswich in full flow. - Credit: Archant

A radical rethink is required on the potential use of several key development sites in Ipswich to improve links between the town centre and the Waterfront, according to a new report.

Ipswich Central, the body responsible for the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) project, aims to help retailers and other town centre businesses build on the success over the past decade of the Waterfront’s regeneration by encouraging the flow of pedestrians between the two areas.

A new document, entitled Focusing Future Investment, identifies a series of potential development projects to improve north-south links.

It was unveiled last night at a meeting of Ipswich Central members which was held at St Peter’s Church, close to the Waterfront, and themed Turning Our Town Around.

Ipswich Central’s new chairman, Terry Baxter, said the concept was in contrast with the traditional east-west axis of the main retail area, known in the past as the Golden Mile.

The new concept was also endorsed at the meeting by William Coe, who Mr Baxter succeeded as chairman earlier this week, who said both Ipswich Borough and Suffolk County Council needed to be more willing to “take risks” and to allow Ipswich Central the freedom it needed to achieve its objectives.

The radical new document calls for alternative options to be explored for a number of sites where major retail developments have previously been proposed.

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These include the area around the Tacket Street and Cox Lane car parks, where successive plans for a major regional shopping centre ? most recently the Mint Quarter proposal ? have failed to come to fruition over the part 30 years.

The report says that, with such a scheme likely to prove even harder to fund in future, a smaller scale redevelopment should be considered, possibly including a small number of shops facing an open-air mall linking Upper Brook Street and Carr Street, combined with a multi-storey car park and some residential development.

It also suggests that both the riverside Grafton Way site, where Tesco has dropped plans for a major store, and the former Civic Centre site off Westgate Street, which a recent report produced for Ipswich Borough Council identified as a priority for retail development, could be more appropriate for residential schemes.

The Ipswich Central report welcomes the potential conversion of the vacant anchor store within the Buttermarket Shopping Centre into a cinema, together with supporting cafés and restaurants, which it says could help attract Waterfront visitors into the town centre.

It identifies the Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre, where the anchor store is also empty, as in need of refurbishment in order to enhance its role as a north-south link between the town centre and the Electric House bus station, which is itself being refurbished, and says regeneration in the area should also include proposals to rebuild the Crown Street multi-storey car park.

Three key north-south corridors are identified in the report:

• St Peter’s Street/St Nicholas Street, which it says has already established a strong identity but requires further improvement at the Waterfront end.

• The Fore Street area, now rebranded as Blackfriars, which is seen as having potential to emulate the “Saints”.

• Lower Brook Street, where The Link project proposes a mixed use development include a new base of media company Archant.

The report adds that the proposed reconfiguration of the Cornhill, the five leading “visions” for which were also outlined at last night’s meeting, also has the potential to improve north-south pedestrian flows along both Lloyds Avenue and Queen Street.

Other suggestions include the redevelopment of the former Odeon cinema site at Majors Corner to expand the arts/cultural offer in the area and providing a northern destination for pedestrian flows from the Waterfront and the college/university area.

There are also suggestions to construct a modern office development on Princes Street between the railway station and the Willis building.

Last, but not least, the report urges schemes to be brought forward to complete the two major stalled developments on the Waterfront, including retail uses complementary to the town centre plus leisure, residential and parking facilites.

Comments on all the proposals for the revamp of Ipswich are invited via the Ipswich Central website at www.ipswichcentral.com