Stowmarket: Blow to town’s economy as planned large retail area is put on hold

Stowmarket's Ipswich Street

Stowmarket's Ipswich Street

A Suffolk town’s economic future has suffered a blow after it was revealed plans for a large new retail area have been shelved.

The proposals for the land on the edge of Stowmarket’s town centre, in Gipping Way, have been put on hold because of the current economic slump. Outline planning permission for more than 180 homes was approved last year for the Suffolk Works site.

But there were also plans for a non-food retail area which would have been part of the 10-acre site.

Leslie Short, from planning and developer consultants Artisan-PPS Ltd, submitted the plans for the homes.

He said: “The plans were for a warehouse-style building but it’s been put back until the economy improves. I think the residential market is far more confident than the commercial market at this time.

“The site is just off the town centre and is a very large area for development. It would certainly improve the appearance as you go into the town centre if it was developed.

“Stowmarket has fared reasonably well – there’s still housing being built – but the number of houses being built is not at the level it was three to four years ago. I think it’s now coming back round.”

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He said the site was intended to be two thirds housing with the rest used for commercial purposes.

District and town councillor Gerard Brewster said: “Obviously we are in a difficult economic situation at the moment. We all hope that it will improve but it’s going to take time. Stowmarket is actually, despite some people’s thinking, doing rather better than some other areas in terms of occupied shops.”

He said cultural organisations – The John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, The Mix youth centre and the Museum of East Anglian Life – would hopefully attract people to spend money in the town’s shops.

Mr Brewster added: “I feel absolutely certain that it will grow once the global economy improves as it is down to that.”

A further important area of re-development in the town is in Ipswich Street.

But Mid Suffolk District Council has said the project – to regenerate a whole row of shops and the United Reformed Church – was on hold until the economy improves. The church has said that it would be prepared to hold talks with the council about its future.