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Ignore those who whinge and moan – look forward to the new Cornhill

PUBLISHED: 11:31 31 January 2018

The Cornhill in Ipswich has been sealed off at reconstruction begins. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Cornhill in Ipswich has been sealed off at reconstruction begins. Picture: GREGG BROWN

I make no apology for the fact that I am delighted to see work has finally started on refurbishing the Cornhill in Ipswich – and I reckon the market looks great in its new home at the top of Princes Street.

Ipswich market has moved to Princes Street as work begins on Cornhill. Picture: GREGG BROWN Ipswich market has moved to Princes Street as work begins on Cornhill. Picture: GREGG BROWN

I’m also getting increasingly fed up with the miseries who carp on and on... and on about the iniquities of the decision to go ahead with the work.

So just let’s look back on how we got to where we are – and what is happening now.

More than five years ago Suffolk-based retail magnate Lord Stewart Rose stood up at a conference in Ipswich and described the Cornhill as “depressing” and said it had to be improved to breathe new life into the town centre.

Everyone in the conference cheered his honesty. The reaction to his speech was overwhelmingly positive. We were flooded with letters saying he was right. I don’t recall anyone saying “Leave the Cornhill as it is”.

This sparked years of preparation. There was a design competition – and the public were invited to give their views on the entries.

A winning design was chosen, and the public were asked what they thought. The design was then refined after the public feedback, before going to planning – at which point people were again asked to give their views on the proposal.

One of the main reasons it’s taken us five and a half years to get from the initial suggestion that we should change the Cornhill to getting work started is the borough and the Ipswich Vision Partnership have been through so many consultation processes.

Frankly, those who are now going around whingeing that they don’t like what is planned, and they had no idea what was happening until work started, have got absolutely no excuse – they could have had a say many times since September 2012.

Then there’s the money involved. Frankly, any major work in the centre of the town is going to run into millions of pounds.

Even simply replacing all the broken paving bricks on the Cornhill would have cost a sum running into seven figures – so don’t get distracted by the idea that £3.2m is an enormous sum.

And then, with inflation over the years, it is little wonder the cost has gone up by a further £400k between inception and execution.

The new look for the Cornhill will make the area appear different – but it should still be instantly recognisable to anyone who knows Ipswich.

The new water feature will add interest – as will the new sculpture outside what will become the new Pret A Manger takeaway.

The changes will not be to everyone’s taste. Anything like this is bound to be subjective. But it having been through all the planning and consultation hoops, I’m afraid those who don’t like this scheme will have to just accept it.

I know there was widespread opposition to a huge black edifice being put up in Ipswich back in the early 1970s – but the Willis building is now one of the best-loved landmarks in the town.

Then there’s the market.

Given that the Cornhill is being developed, the market had to move somewhere. Having visited it on its first day, I have to say I was really impressed by how well it seemed to be working.

The fine weather helped. The smart new blue and white gazebos of the stalls look really good – and even the traders seemed to think their new home would work.

Of course, it helped that we were enjoying the rarity of a clear, crisp, January morning and that the solid wooden panels around the Cornhill have not yet been put in place.

But it looked good – and the food court in Queen’s Street also looked okay. That could be a real plus when spring arrives if even more food stalls can be persuaded to set up there.

As I’ve made clear, I don’t share the worries of some people with loud voices who want to moan about the changes and will take any opportunity and any medium to whinge about what is happening.

I sometimes feel far too much credibility is given to these whingers. They are not the majority of people. There is no way of knowing what the majority of people really think – and I suspect most of the “silent majority” are waiting with an open mind to see what emerges.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the new look of the Cornhill unveiled in October – although I suspect some people just won’t be prepared to give it a chance and will moan whatever!

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