Ipswich: Could a new tourist train provide a link between the town centre and the Waterfront?
14:04 17 March 2014
A new train could help link the town centre with the Waterfront in a bid to bring more tourists to Ipswich.
That’s one idea being promoted by new borough opposition leader Liz Harsant as a way of encouraging visitors to the town’s major asset.
And she wants the authority to attract more retailers to the Waterfront – especially small, specialist shops – in a bid to encourage more people into the area.
The ruling Labour administration at the borough is putting its weight behind proposals to link the town centre with the Waterfront.
But it believes that any major new retail development for the town would have to take place away from a new north/south axis – on the former Civic Centre site.
Ipswich Central, which represents businesses operating in the heart of the town, is keen to link the town and Waterfront by improving the streets that link the areas – St Nicholas/St Peters Street, Upper Brook Street and Lower Brook Street, and Tacket Street/Fore Street.
Its aim is for new retail development to be concentrated on these new links, and for investment to be targeted there.
Mrs Harsant said: “We do need to make it easier to get people to go between the town centre and the Waterfront – and to create more permanent attractions for them in the Waterfront.
“There are some very nice pubs and cafes there and the hotel (the Salthouse Harbour) is wonderful. But there should be more small shops – at the moment there is nowhere to even buy a newspaper on the Waterfront.
“People know about the Waterfront, things like Maritime Ipswich are very successful, but there needs to be a draw there all the time, not just one or two weekends a year.”
She had seen small tourist trains carrying tourists around cities like Athens and Luxembourg – and a train had operated in Felixstowe a few years ago.
“If it went from the Cornhill down St Nicholas Street and St Peter’s Street and then along the Waterfront it could be a real attraction for visitors and local people who want to try something different.”
She said it was vital that the borough took an active role in developing the centre of the town – but there needed to be some radical thinking.
“I would like to see something done about Carr Street, maybe clear some of the area and create more open space.”
And the former Civic Centre site might be best used for housing: “We need to concentrate the shops between the town centre and the Waterfront,” she said.
Council leader David Ellesmere said: “We are clear about the need to link up the town centre and the Waterfront and we want to do all we can to achieve that.
“But the DTZ report (into town centre planning) said that the only possible location for a large retail development was the Westgate Centre.
“I think that is probably many years away – there are few large scale town centre developments going ahead anywhere in the country at the present time – but we need to be aware of the situation.”
He said Ipswich Central was already preparing to run a shuttle bus between the town centre and the Waterfront, and was concerned that any tourist train could conflict with this.