Ipswich: Strong medicine from legendary retailer at Beacon Conference
LEGENDARY retailer Sir Stuart Rose pulled no punches about the problems in the town at the second Beacon Conference . . . but come to an optimistic conclusion that there was much that the people of Ipswich could do to improve it.
Sir Stuart’s keynote speech outlined what he saw as major problems the town had with its image.
He knows the town well – he has a home in rural Suffolk – and visits Ipswich every 10 days or so.
Sir Stuart said: “The railway station would not be out of place in Siberia! It is a depressing station that you want to get out of – and there is nothing to say ‘Welcome to Ipswich.’
“There is not even a sign to the town centre and when you get out you straight away have to dodge the traffic.”
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And his harshest comments were reserved for the centre of the town, around the Cornhill.
Sir Stuart said: “It is the most depressing place I have ever seen! Standing in the town centre with the empty shops it is a barren wasteland.
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“Give me about �200,000 and I could transform it – move the market to Lloyds Avenue and turn it into a wonderful piazza in the heart of the town, maybe with a small fountain as a focal point and space for outdoor cafes and events.”
His challenge was taken up by Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere who immediately offered him the chance to work with the borough to improve the town centre.
But while Sir Stuart had harsh words about the town centre and railway station, his message was not all doom and gloom.
Nationally he did not believe things were as bad as they were sometimes painted – and felt Britain was well placed to weather the economic storm.
Sir Stuart said the town’s Waterfront was a major asset for the town – but development of that should not be at the expense of the other parts of Ipswich.
He said: “The Waterfront is fantastic but there is a problem with linking it to the town centre, you need to link up the different parts of the town.”