Ipswich: Forget about Tesco and build in town centre first, developer demands

Former Civic Centre, Ipswich

Former Civic Centre, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

THE developer behind the stalled Civic Centre regeneration today criticised planning bosses for giving the green light to out-of-town retail areas.

Chris Goldsmith, from Turnstone Properties, said Suffolk Coastal District Council’s decision to grant permission for the expansion of Beardmore Park in Martlesham Heath had a damaging knock-on effect for Ipswich town centre.

Attempts to redevelop the Civic Centre site, which has been empty since 2008, have been hit by the recession, the proposed Tesco store at Grafton Way, and the Martlesham Heath development.

Mr Goldsmith said that if the town was to flourish, councils would have to turn down retail expansion outside the central area.

He said his company had entered into talks with Morrisons who were unwilling to commit themselves to a major store with the threat of a new Tesco opening nearby.

Turnstone also talked to Next about the possibility of opening a large store on the Civic Centre site – but those discussions came to nothing. Next subsequently opened a new store at Martlesham.

Mr Goldsmith said: “If Ipswich town centre is to develop, and it has great potential, there must be an effort to ensure developments are concentrated in this area, and that policy must extend beyond the borough itself.

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“There are real concerns about the way Suffolk Coastal has given permission for out-of-town centres.”

His views are echoed by management group Ipswich Central, which is calling on the authorities to adopt a “town centre first” policy.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said there was nothing that could be done about units which already had planning permission – but that no new permissions should be granted for out-of-town retail units except in special circumstances. Andy Smith is cabinet member responsible for planning at Suffolk Coastal. He said there was an outstanding retail permission for the retail park at Martlesham Heath so there was nothing that could be done to stop retailers from moving in.

He added: “Suffolk Coastal opposed the Waitrose/John Lewis application at Ransomes on technical grounds.”

Next and, more recently, Marks and Spencer had moved into units at Martlesham that had become vacant.

“Marks and Spencer moved into the unit that became vacant when Glasswells moved near Ipswich town centre, this is not all one way,” Mr Smith added.

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