December 18 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
It is almost exactly a year since legendary retailer Sir Stuart Rose, who has a home in Suffolk, told the Beacon Conference that the town centre needed to be transformed.
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer welcomed the proposals – although he clearly felt some were more exciting than others.
He said: “It is very good that this is coming forward now. People have to realise that we need to create an attractive town centre to be able to encourage major investment in Ipswich.
“If you look at places like Westfield (the new shopping centre near Stratford station in east London) you find that the developers have spent a lot of money and effort into making it attractive for the stores and the shoppers themselves.”
Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee said: “Sir Stuart Rose laid down the gauntlet to Ipswich – and I’m proud to say the partnership has picked it up.
“We want to hear what residents, business owners and shoppers think about the designs that are now on display.
“Our county town should be a proud beacon for Suffolk and this project will very much help it to be exactly that.”
Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central added: “This is the town’s busiest location, its true heart, and it needs to be made to work much harder in attracting people from around the county and kick-starting investment beyond its footprint.
“The experts have been encouraged to think big, be bold, challenge convention and come up with a transformative solution for the space that will be fitting of Suffolk’s county town for decades to come.”
He pulled no punches, telling the audience: “It is the most depressing place I have ever seen! Standing in the town centre with the empty shops, it is a barren wasteland.
“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.”
Now a shortlist of five designs has been chosen which have gone on display at the Town Hall today.
They will be on display for a week, and the public is invited to have their say on them before a committee of the partners behind the scheme decide later this month which should be the basis for the transformation.
Borough council leader David Ellesmere said: “All the proposals are very interesting.
“I’m not sure that the final project will be exactly like any of them, but the winning entry will give a strong clue about the way we want to see the Cornhill develop.
“We have said we are looking for a project in the region of £3m. If a design is considerably less than that then it will get extra points in the judging process.
“But once we have chosen a design that is where the hard work starts – we need to work together to get the funding. The borough will contribute, but there are other partners as well.”
After Sir Stuart’s presentation last September, a partnership between the borough, Ipswich Central and MP Ben Gummer then linked up with Suffolk County Council and UCS. Sir Stuart agreed to become an advisor to the partnership.
The partners will be looking for funding from both the borough and the county – and will be seeking a contribution from the private sector through Ipswich Central.
Any work on the scheme will have to wait until funding is secured.
One of the key issues is likely to be the fate of the Ipswich market which uses the Cornhill four days of the week.
It has been suggested that the stalls could move into Princes Street and around Giles Circus to free up more of the Cornhill for a piazza and pavement cafes.