Ipswich: A convenient truth as Tesco and Morrisons aim to bring new stores to town

A number of old pubs in Ipswich are being converted into supermarkets.
The Golden Key on Woodbridge

A number of old pubs in Ipswich are being converted into supermarkets. The Golden Key on Woodbridge Road is going to be a Sainsbury's. - Credit: Archant

Two more convenience stores are heading for Ipswich – meaning there are now five in the pipeline for the town centre and residential areas.

We understand Morrisons is coming to the former Blockbuster site on the junction of St Matthew’s Street and Berners Street, while Tesco is planning to convert the Heathlands pub in Foxhall Road into a convenience store.

Tesco already has permission to develop a convenience store at the Emperor pub in Norwich Road, Sainsbury’s is converting the Golden Key in Woodbridge Road, and Iceland is preparing to return to its former unit in the Tower Ramparts centre.

Neither Tesco nor Morrisons could confirm details of their moves. A spokeswoman for Morrisons said it was early days, but confirmed talks were underway about taking on the Blockbuster site in St Matthew’s St.

It was announced earlier this year that Morrisons would be taking on 49 Blockbuster sites across the south of England to expand its “M” convenience store coverage.

Because it was already a shop, the company would not need planning permission for change of use – however it would need permission to install major new equipment like air conditioning plant. And it would need permission to sell alcohol.

Tesco would not need planning permission to convert the Heathlands into a shop – but it would need permission if it wants to build an extension or install new equipment. Again it would need an alcohol licence.

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Over the last year planning permission has already been given for the Emperor and Golden Key conversions – the latter after an appeal.

Ipswich councillor with responsibility for planning and economic development Carole Jones said there was little the authority could do about the planning applications.

She said: “We are aware of the situation at the Heathlands, and the other pub applications have gone through even though there was opposition.

“Local authorities only have limited powers to influence what can happen – but we are aware that applications attract a great deal of interest.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer felt that new stores would be welcome for the communities they served – but it was disappointing to lose local pubs.

He said: “People moan about supermarkets but almost everyone uses them and they do provide welcome jobs.

“However it is disappointing to see that pub companies, which are often just property companies, are so keen to sell existing businesses – I am particularly sorry to hear about The Heathlands, I often met friends there,” he said.