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New vision for Ipswich Cornhill brings sculpture and water feature to site

PUBLISHED: 07:17 13 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:27 14 March 2017

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - seen from Tavern Street.

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - seen from Tavern Street.

Archant

This is the bold new look that is set to be created at Ipswich Cornhill next year after the views of the public – and expert bodies – were taken into account.

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - space will be created for market stalls. Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - space will be created for market stalls.

A new modern sculpture is to be installed along with a water feature in front of the former Grimwade’s store – but proposals to level the major part of the Cornhill have been dropped.

The new plans were drawn up after a widespread consultation by the Ipswich Vision partnerships last year showed that a majority of people and businesses wanted to see the town centre square improved.

However, some details met with opposition, including the proposed levelling of the Cornhill by use of a large ramp and a large tower.

If the go-ahead is given the tendering process will follow and construction work will start next January with completion due by Christmas 2018.

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - the sculpture should be lit at night. Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - the sculpture should be lit at night.

Further consultation will take place through the planning process. An application has been made and will be registered next week.

There will not be another full public consultation on the same lines as that last year because the views of people who took part in that have been incorporated into the new design.

The project, which is expected to cost in the region of £3m, is being funded by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council.

Evidence from other parts of the UK shows that refurbishment projects like these can help to increase town centre footfall and retail spend.

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill. The view from the Post Office showing the water feature. Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill. The view from the Post Office showing the water feature.

It is hoped that the development will encourage new tenants to take long-term leases on the former Grimwades store and the former Post Office building.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the new designs is a set of four “celebratory columns” inspired by the four key figures on top of the Town Hall and former Post Office. They also reflect the former historic gates to Ipswich.

Space will also be created for market stalls – although these are also expected to stretch around Giles Circus and Queen Street which is currently being pedestrianised and where work should be finished soon.

The Ipswich Vision Group was set up to promote the town. Partners are: New Anglia LEP, Ipswich Council, Suffolk County Council, Ben Gummer, Ipswich Central, the Suffolk Chamber and the University of Suffolk.

The big picture for the Cornhill

The redevelopment of the Cornhill is the most significant element of work to improve the town centre – but it is only the largest part of a much wider vision.

It is hoped – and expected – that the redevelopment will encourage retailers and/or restaurant chains to look very closely at the former Grimwade’s store and former Post Office on the Cornhill.

It is understood that a major retailer has looked at Grimwades – but is unwilling to make a commitment until the future look of the area is settled and a building programme agreed. A similar situation could arise at the old Post Office.

Work to pedestrianise Queen Street and turn it into an alternative home for the town’s market is on schedule for completion at Easter – that will create a better walk from the town centre to the Waterfront.

And there could be development in Lloyds Avenue – including possibly a roof over part of the road.

Civic leaders welcome Cornhill proposals

The proposals to rebuild the Ipswich Cornhill have the full backing of members of the Ipswich Vision board which has been working to bring more prosperity to the town centre.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said: “These new designs reflect what the people of Ipswich and conservation groups have told us but they still remain exciting and bold.

“Our architects, Hall McKnight, have managed the difficult task of retaining the wow factor while meeting public concerns about some of the details. This is going to give us a Cornhill we can all be proud of.”

Tom Cookson, of Hall McKnight, is delighted the new designs have been unanimously approved by the Ipswich Vision Group.

He said: “It is an exhilarating project to be involved with and the whole team here have worked hard to incorporate the Cornhill story within the design.”

Mark Pendlington, Chairman of New Anglia LEP which has provided much of the funding for the Cornhill, said: “The LEP is pleased to be investing in this important project.

“The redevelopment of the Cornhill will honour Ipswich’s heritage while boosting the modern economic heart of the town.”

The seeds of the redevelopment of the Cornhill was planted by a speech made to the Ipswich Beacon Conference by the Suffolk-based former chairman of Marks and Spencer Sir Stuart Rose in 2012 when he described the area as “depressing.”

His call was taken up by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who was enthusiastic about the new plans: “This is a great moment for the town.

“These plans will not only make the centre of Ipswich a better place, attracting new investment, shops and creating jobs but they symbolise two important things; first that Ipswich is rising and secondly how much we can achieve when we work together in the interests of our town.”

Paul Clement, Chief Executive of Ipswich Central, said: “The Cornhill is the heart of the town centre and is a key part of the visitor experience in Ipswich.

“It is really important that our town centre continues to evolve in line with the needs of consumers and these plans help achieve this.

“The new Cornhill designs are sympathetic to the historic setting, whilst creating a public realm space fit for future needs.”

Catherine Johnson, chair of Suffolk Chamber in Greater Ipswich, also welcomed the new designs: “Suffolk Chamber in Greater Ipswich is delighted to be working with a range of great partners in the Ipswich Vision initiative.

“The publication of the new Cornhill designs is a welcome step forward for this important project. Getting the Cornhill right will be another piece successfully placed in the jigsaw aimed at making Ipswich a truly great place to do business, live and visit.”

Richard Lister, Vice-Chancellor of University of Suffolk, added: “I am delighted as this provides further evidence of the regeneration of the whole town which will have a positive impact on our staff and student experience.”

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