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Can the Ipswich Vision survive a move for the town’s market from Cornhill?

PUBLISHED: 06:03 31 August 2017

Ipswich council are discussing where to relocate Ipswich Market after changes to Cornhill. Shoppers enjoying the market. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich council are discussing where to relocate Ipswich Market after changes to Cornhill. Shoppers enjoying the market. Picture: GREGG BROWN

As the start of work on the Ipswich Cornhill in January moves ever closer, the question of what should happen to the town’s market is getting more pressing.

Queen Street has services installed for the market. Picture: GREGG BROWN Queen Street has services installed for the market. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Until a few months ago it looked as if the issue about what would happen to the market had been settled.

It would move a few yards to Princes’ Street – extending into the re-paved and pedestrianised Queen Street and around Giles Circus.

It would only be a few yards from its current location. Everyone would be able to find it, it would not be stuck away in some corner of the town centre like the Civic Centre car park. And it would help with the Ipswich Vision aim of turning the town around to try to bring the historic town centre and Waterfront together.

A huge amount of money, hundreds of thousands of pounds, was spent reconfiguring Queen Street and ensuring services were installed for the market traders.

The borough went to the trouble of getting an Act of Parliament so the market could extend into Queen Street.

Then at the start of the summer it emerged that councillors and officials had started talking to market traders about the possibility of putting their stalls along Westgate Street and Tavern Street instead when the Cornhill work is underway.

The Queen Street proposal was only “an option.”

The traders looked at the number of people in Westgate Street and Tavern Street and the number currently in Queen Street and, quite understandably, came to the conclusion it would be a better place for them on the main street.

Personally, I have serious doubts about this – even if the emergency services do conclude that there is room to get a fire appliance or ambulance between the stalls if there is a life-threatening situation in the town centre.

I am a huge fan of Ipswich market. I helped spearhead the fight to get it moved on to the Cornhill from the Civic Centre car park 15 years ago.

That was undoubtedly right. The market has to be in the town centre, not on a remote car park.

But Princes’ Street/Queen Street is in the town centre. You can see the market from the Cornhill. And it looks like the ideal temporary home.

I know there aren’t as many people in Queen Street as there are in Tavern Street now, but the market traders need to have confidence in their pulling power. People go to the Cornhill on market day BECAUSE the market is there.

They don’t wander aimlessly around the town centre and stumble across the market because it is on the Cornhill.

I’m convinced putting market stalls along the comparatively narrow Tavern Street and Westgate Street would damage the market and damage the shops on these streets. Good markets and good town centres need to give shoppers and other visitors room to circulate. The “street market” in Colchester doesn’t seem to work at all.

And if the borough does go ahead and move the market to the Tavern Street/Westgate Street axis, that is likely to be seen by other members of the Ipswich Vision Partnership as something of a vote of no confidence in the proposal to turn the town around.

The borough is the authority that grants the market a licence. It is also the town’s planning authority. And it can justifiably claim to have a democratic mandate – its members are voted in by the people of Ipswich.

But if it rejects the wishes of other members of the Partnership therefore going against the principle of re-aligning the town centre, it does raise the question: “Is there any point of having an Ipswich Vision?”

The Partnership has done some good work in helping to improve the town centre over the last few years. We are getting a new-look Cornhill built next year. We have seen investment in major town centre properties like the Buttermarket Centre and the new Jack Wills store.

And there is still more to come – things like the new Crown multi-storey car park. But the basic under-lying philosophy of the Ipswich Vision has barely started taxiing to the end of the runway – let alone got itself ready for take-off!

The idea of linking the town centre to the Waterfront is still a long way off. With key sites years away from being ready for development.

If the borough decides its views aren’t worth considering over the market, then I would pose the question: What is the future for the Ipswich Vision?

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