Cornhill is open – can it be a game-changer for Ipswich town centre?

The cornhill development in Ipswich town centre is nearly finished Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The cornhill development in Ipswich town centre is nearly finished Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

So after nine months’ work and £3.6m the new-look Ipswich Cornhill is finally open to the public again. But has it all been worth it?

In my view, yes – quite emphatically. The new square looks and feels much larger and brighter than it did before and the water feature brings a real wow factor with bags of fun for children.

I understand there are niggles. Some users of mobility vehicles are worried about some of the rougher cobbles and there are concerns that some of the differences between paving could be difficult for women in stiletto heels.

And I understand some people who are visually impaired are concerned about the new steps.

But nothing can be perfect – the old square with its broken cobble bricks and uneven surfaces generally was hardly ideal for those with disabilities.

The new square certainly looks much better. I cannot imagine Lord Stuart Rose describing this as “The most depressing place I know”.

I have been frustrated to hear some of the criticisms as work on the square started – back in 2012 there was general agreement that the Cornhill was tired and needed to be redeveloped but as soon as work started it seemed as if everyone was a critic.

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That wasn’t true, of course, it was just that the critics seemed more willing to put their heads about the parapet – maybe some of the supporters were waiting to see what it looked like in the flesh.

I suspect many of them will be quite satisfied today – I’ve already heard from some of the erstwhile critics who now accept “It’s not as bad as I thought.”

Of course the Cornhill isn’t yet finished. The Gateway opposite Debenhams and the new Pret a Manger isn’t installed yet – and Pret itself is still in the middle of its own conversion work.

But having seen what is completed of the new Cornhill, I do feel this could be a gamechanger for Ipswich town centre.

More needs to happen. We need to see someone move into the Old Post Office building. We need to see the Golden Lion come back to life and we need to have the long-term future of the town’s Debenhams settled again after the worrying noises from the company’s head office.

But the new Cornhill is a good start. Ipswich is a brighter place today.

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