Could this really be Ipswich town centre’s chance to shine

Ipswich Vision group.

Ipswich Vision group.

Over the years I seem to have reported on many wonderful proposals to regenerate Ipswich town centre – from Crowngates and Cloisters to the Westgate Centre and Tesco at Grafton Way.

However, in all truth I’ve never been as hopeful about the future of Suffolk’s county town as I am today following the rather tortuous birth of the Ipswich Vision document.

The fact that all the parties are now singing from the same hymn sheet is hugely significant.

By signing, Ipswich council has abandoned its fanciful belief that a big new shopping centre on the site of the former Civic Centre is the way forward. They have accepted that a more compact town centre linking the Cornhill and Tower Ramparts with the Waterfront is what is needed.

The county council has accepted that it needs to invest money into its county town – specifically the Cornhill.

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And everyone who sat around the table has effectively accepted that they need to pull in the same direction, they cannot allow political differences or personality clashes to get in the way of progress.

It’s clear there are still some who are unsure. I’ve heard one or two people describe it as “just another vision” for the town.

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I don’t buy that. The fact that all the interested parties in the town have signed up to the scheme is very important – and has caught the attention of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.

That should push investment in our direction.

And as I’ve said before, there is money in the town and in the area around the town. What is needed is a town centre and Waterfront that can attract that money and stop it from haemorrhaging to Colchester, Cambridge, Norwich or Bury St Edmunds.

There will be those who are either happy with things as they are or who just feel that nothing can be done.

Those voices have now been marginalised. While they exist in the background, they are not represented among those looking to push the town centre forward.

And that is where they have to stay.

Look at the places where their centres have been transformed. In Bury there was years of debate, but eventually there was unanimous agreement that the Arc would be good for the town. It has been a magnet for shoppers.

In Cambridge the Grand Parade and the improvements to the pedestrianised areas of the city centre had widespread support and have helped to maintain the city as a popular destination.

And Norwich has seen investment as a major regional centre because all groups backed its ambitious proposals and it succeeded in lottery bids. Now it’s Ipswich’s turn for investment – bring it on!

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