Ipswich: Town praised for the way it is ‘fighting to re-invent itself’ as shopping destination
IPSWICH town centre has been spotlighted in a new report being published by the British Retail Consortium.
The report highlights the way the town is fighting to re-invent itself as a destination both for shoppers and those who want to enjoy its atmosphere.
And it looks at proposals to switch its axis – linking the historic town centre with the Waterfront area.
The report comes just two months after Sir Stuart Rose gave a blunt assessment of the town centre at the Beacon Town conference at Ipswich Corn Exchange.
He described parts of the town centre as depressing – and urged the councils to develop the Cornhill with street cafes and other entertainments rather than having it dominated by the town’s market.
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The BRC worked with Ipswich Central, the Business Improvement District (BID) company which promotes the heart of the town, to produce the report which is part of its annual “state of the high street” publication.
It particularly focuses on the regeneration of the Waterfront.
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It says Ipswich Waterfront had gone into decline over the later decades of the 20th century with a number of dilapidated industrial buildings blighting the landscape.
The historic location, an industrial port which dates back to 1842, needed to exploit its unique surroundings to bring people back to the area.
It adds that the Waterfront has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past decade with significant public and private sector investment.
Educational and leisure facilities combine with new business and residential accommodation. This has led to economic growth throughout the wider town.
In 2011, Ipswich Central, in conjunction with other partners, created a Vision to better reconnect the town centre with the now thriving Waterfront area.
Ipswich council is working with the BID and other partners to now promote the town both regionally and nationally as “East Anglia’s Waterfront Town Centre.”
As a result of which the report says that the Waterfront is now rapidly delivering its full potential to visitors, businesses and residents.
Business turnover has increased, new businesses have emerged, and visitor numbers are up, including to the annual Maritime Festival which was visited by 60,000 people in August 2012.
The outcome is a unique sense of place and a new identity for Suffolk’s County town.
Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said the town’s involvement in the BRC report showed how its attempts to re-invent itself were attracting national attention.
He added: “Times are tough in town centres across the country, but Ipswich is certainly holding its own – I think there is much more on offer here than there was last Christmas.”
The reports come after former Marks and Spencer chairman and chief executive Sir Stuart – who lives near the town – told the Beacon Conference about his concerns.
He said of the heart of town: “It is the most depressing place I have ever seen! Standing in the town centre with the empty shops it is a barren wasteland.
And he warned: “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.”
The Travel Ipswich programme which is redesigning the roads in and around Ipswich is designed to improve links between the town centre, the Waterfront, and the railway station – there is currently work on Princes Street to make it more attractive for pedestrians walking between the two areas.
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