Waitrose identifies site for new store

SUPERMARKET chain Waitrose could finally be heading to Ipswich – and might even end up with two stores in the town.

The upmarket grocer, which is known to have been looking for a suitable site in Ipswich for many years, has identified the former Crane factory site off Nacton Road as a potential location for a store of similar size to its existing branches in Saxmundham, Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury.

And the company, part of the John Lewis Partnership, is also understood to be in talks with Ipswich Borough Council about turning the ground floor of the Corn Exchange building into a convenience store, using the Robert Cross Hall and the former Gatsby’s Bar.

Representatives from Waitrose met members of the borough’s planning and development committee earlier this week to outline their proposals and a planning application is likely to be submitted by the end of next month.

The site of the former Crane engineering plant has been allocated for “employment” use by the borough council, and the new supermarket would occupy only part of the site.

A spokesman for the council said he could make no further comment about the application, but in principle a supermarket would not go against council policy for the site.

Waitrose previously hoped to build a supermarket in Westerfield Road, but that proposal was rejected by the council more than a decade ago.

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Since then it has looked at the possibility of the former Civic Centre site in the town centre and there has been speculation it was interested in the site of the Colchester Road fire station. However while spokesmen for the company have always said it is keen to move to Ipswich, they have never committed themselves to a particular site, until now.

A spokesman for Waitrose said: “We are looking to put up a supermarket on the Crane site.

“Our supermarkets do not tend to be as large as some other companies’ but this one would be a substantial supermarket.” It would employ well over 100 people, although the exact number would not be settled until they knew how large the store would be, he added.

It is understood that the Nacton Road site could be developed as a “Waitrose Plus” with a department selling household goods from John Lewis as well as groceries.

The company spokesman also confirmed that Waitrose would consider opening a convenience store in the town centre.

He added: “We are looking at developing about 30 new convenience stores a year around the country over the next 10 years.”

He declined to say whether it had a site in mind, but said Ipswich was the kind of centre where Waitrose would like to have a presence.