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New look for central Ipswich comes at a price, but Cornhill does need work

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:33 14 December 2017

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill


Ipswich has finally had a second piece of good news this week with the final go-ahead being given for the redevelopment of the Cornhill in the heart of the town coming just after the county proposed a new city bid.

The Cornhill needs a fresh, new look. Picture: GREGG BROWN The Cornhill needs a fresh, new look. Picture: GREGG BROWN

It has taken much longer than anyone thought. Who would have imagined when Lord Rose first suggested the redevelopment to universal acclaim that it would take more than five years before work started?

And that has cost a lot of money. £400,000 to be precise. That is how much the development has risen in price between being agreed in 2014 and finally going out to tender now.

That means some elements are now unclear. It will now not extend to Princes Street and the water feature that was at the very heart of the original plan is now having to be looked at again. It is a shame, but it’s not worth going into a decline about!

In my view the right decision – the only realistic decision – was made on the market. I have no doubt it will do well in the Giles Circus area and might even attract more people to that part of the town even after it has returned to its Cornhill home at the end of next year.

I’m now really rather looking forward to the Cornhill work getting under way – and it is very hopeful that it should be reopened well in time for next Christmas.

By being due for completion in October, there should be plenty of wriggle-room if there are any delays and still to get it completed by the lights’ switch-on in 2018.

I remain convinced that re-building the Cornhill will give the town centre a lift and, with the arrival of Pret a Manger and hopefully one or two more big names in the town’s main square, could be just what Ipswich needs.

And I am disappointed that so much attention seems to be focused on social media to those who are opposed to developments in the town centre – and to proposals to apply for city status for Ipswich.

I can’t write anything about the town centre and put it on Facebook without a load of people complaining. Ipswich is a rubbish place. Any money spent on the Cornhill is just going to be wasted. Etc. Etc.

The most recent moan I saw was that Pret isn’t “good enough” for the former Grimwades store. “It’s just another sandwich shop!” Oh yes, in the same way that Byron’s is just another burger joint!

Maybe it says something about my friends and colleagues, but I haven’t come across anyone who isn’t enthusiastic about Pret coming to Ipswich. No one is saying they’ll use it every day, but for a treat once a week or once a fortnight it will get a regular clientele.

And while I haven’t come across anyone dancing for joy at the plans for the new Cornhill, the overwhelming majority of those I talk to feel that it does look tired and gloomy and feel that something needs to be done to brighten it up.

They seem prepared to give the plans the benefit of the doubt.

Now the danger is that while you might get dozens of negative comments, it is important to realise that they are a tiny minority of the 180,000+ population of the greater Ipswich area.

The danger is, of course, that we hear so much of these unrepresentative voices that we start to believe they really do represent a large slice of the local population.

If that were the case I would expect to see these voices getting votes in local elections. I would expect to see them organising to get their views put into action.

It’s not happening – if it does we will have to start taking them seriously but we do the town a disservice if we start paying too much attention to a tiny minority of the population.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing work start on the Cornhill at the end of next month.

I’m looking forward to Pret opening and the occasional chicken and avocado baguette in my home town, and I’m looking forward to more good news from new businesses heading to Ipswich town centre.

They’ll soon be more new restaurants and cafes in the former BHS building. I know that will upset a few people – but who cares? Anyone who has struggled to find a table in a town centre restaurant over the Christmas period will understand why this is needed.

As I said, it does look as if things are continuing to look up for Ipswich town centre. It is taking longer than planned. It is costing more than planned. And not everyone is happy. But overall it should look a lot better at the end of 2018 than at the start.

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