THE Cornhill is set to be transformed into the beating heart of the town at the end of a major competition backed by legendary retailer Sir Stuart Rose.

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The former head of Marks and Spencer pulled no punches at last September’s Beacon Conference where he said of the areas around the Cornhill: “It is the most depressing place I have ever seen. Standing in the town centre with the empty shops it is a barren wasteland.”

Now the Suffolk-based retail legend has agreed to chair a partnership which will choose a design to revitalise the Cornhill.

The partnership includes the borough council, the county council, University Campus Suffolk and Business Improvement District (BID) company Ipswich Central.

The aim is to revitalise the Cornhill into a high profile central piazza for Ipswich.

Looking for inspiration?

IPSWICH is looking at some of the great towns and cities of Britain and Europe to see how town squares can be the heart of the existence.

In Brussels the Grand Place is the meeting spot for people from all over the city – it has outdoor cafes around the edge and a large meeting area at the centre which always seems to be buzzing.

In London open areas like Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square are centres of activity.

And other cities like Manchester and Birmingham have squares which are focal points for major events – but are also meeting places for people from across the cities.

A city with a well-used central area is Nottingham where the Market Square is the thriving focus of civic life.

The current appearance of the Cornhill was established in the 1980s when the area was paved.

Architects or urban design consultants will be asked to submit proposals for the Cornhill, including ideas for flexible space for events, an improved entrance to the Town Hall and the future of the market.

All users of the Cornhill will be involved, including retailers, market traders, and the Ipswich Society.

The initial response from market traders that the borough has spoken to has been positive. A poll in The Star after Sir Stuart’s comments showed two thirds of our readers wanted major improvements.

What happens next?

ADVERTS inviting architects to take part in the competition are about to be published in the Official Journal of the EU (the partners are hoping to get international interest in the bid) over the next few weeks.

Architects will have until May or June to submit schemes – at that time a shortlist will be drawn up.

During the summer details of the shortlisted schemes will be published, and the public will have an opportunity to comment.

The winning scheme is due to be selected in the autumn – and funding will then have to be found.

The borough is to earmark some capital expenditure to be spent on the project, but the cost will not be known until the winning design is selected.

At that stage the borough will be looking for funding for the scheme which could come partly through the Local Enterprise Partnership or even the EU.

Once the funding is in place, work will start – although that is unlikely to be this year.

The Cornhill project has been brought forward by Vision Ipswich, which was created after Ipswich Central’s recent BID renewal.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said: “Ipswich cannot afford to let this great chance to revive the Cornhill slip by.

“A big part of Ipswich Central’s proposition for the second BID term was to lead on the Vision for Ipswich, of which this is a major part.

“We have the opportunity now to create a contemporary and flexible space in the middle of town where shoppers, businesses, customers, staff and visitors will want to increasingly spend more time.”

Borough council leader David Ellesmere said: “It is vital that Ipswich creates an attractive and thriving Cornhill as the strong core of the town. We can then extend this strength to the rest of the town centre. I am pleased our partners have got behind this vision and back my pledge, made at the Beacon Ipswich conference, to set aside substantial funding towards this key project.”

Mr Gummer added: “If Ipswich is going to realise its full potential, we need to be ambitious about our town.

“The Cornhill is the historic centre of one of the country’s most historic towns, yet it lets us down.

“It is surrounded by magnificent buildings and should be a centre of the town’s life from morning until night.

“That is why I am pleased that the local retailers and the council have declared their intent to do something exciting with this wonderful space. All I would do is to urge them to be brave – we cannot afford timidity now.”

County council Mark Bee said: “Suffolk should be proud of its county town and having a vibrant and thriving centre that provides local people and visitors with what they want is an important part of that.

“Making the town an attractive place to visit, live and work is something we all have a vested interest in, which is why the county council is currently making significant improvements to the transport network.”

Richard Lister from UCS is Chair of the Vision Ipswich group. He said: “I hope we can be really adventurous and develop something distinctive, dramatic and high quality which will help regenerate the whole town centre.”

The Ipswich Star is currently running the I Love Ipswich campaign, highlighting the steps that are being taken to revive the town

8 comments

  • Leave the Cornhill as it is, do something to regenerate the town centre to draw people in, better shops, easier parking etc.

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    IG

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

  • Why do shops close at 5pm perhaps 5.30pm? Why does Ipswich (just like most county sized towns) have this state of limbo between 5 and 7pm which consists of empty streets, too late for shoppers and too early for those revellers who spend money? Keep the shops open until 8pm to attract shoppers to balance the revellers.

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    Steve Blake

    Friday, February 15, 2013

  • why not focus on all the empty shops in the town lower rates and rents to get these shops open again stop wasting money the whole town needs looking at not just one area please no more pound shops or charity shops.

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    gabi

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

  • “It is the most depressing place I have ever seen. Standing in the town centre with the empty shops it is a barren wasteland.” - Since this is all about the cornhill then maybe you should pay more attention. If you are on the cornhill there is only one shop which is closed and that is Clintons. All around the shops are being used. Elsewhere in the town centre there are many shops that have closed, as there are in every town and city at the moment due to the recession and economic issues. Knowing people who run shops I know that half the problem of empty units is to do with the rates that the council charge. As for the cornhill itself, I don't see the problem. It's a nice large paved area which can be used for multiple things. I, and many others regularily use the market, and it is always used for other events. All this talk about making it the "centre of the town’s life from morning until night" is nonsense. As soon as 5pm hits the town centre dies. Whether or not you do something on the cornhill will make no difference. There's not a lot in the town, and there's already too many coffee shops and cafe type places. Soon the entire towen will be like that. the only reason to go to a cafe is to have a break whilst shopping or dodge the weather. People do not go into town to have a cup of tea. The only life after 5pm comes much later when people are out drinking. Please don't waste a lot of money which could be used for something better (like what happened with the pointless question mark statue!!!)

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    Chris Church

    Friday, February 15, 2013

  • This area could be used more for entertainment I as many cities have, street entertainers More places to eat drink would not be helpful, far too many already! reduce parking charges, rates in town that would revitalise it. Spending money would just increase rates again. Fountain may look nice but all water features in town are no longer used or don't work.i have seen several since a child inI pswich ( now 50+) enjoyed them all but short lived. I no longer shop in town as too expensive to park.

    Report this comment

    Heather

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

  • This area could be used more for entertainment I as many cities have, street entertainers More places to eat drink would not be helpful, far too many already! reduce parking charges, rates in town that would revitalise it. Spending money would just increase rates again. Fountain may look nice but all water features in town are no longer used or don't work.i have seen several since a child inI pswich ( now 50+) enjoyed them all but short lived. I no longer shop in town as too expensive to park.

    Report this comment

    Heather

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

  • It's an optimistic ambition to look at Brussels main sqaure, La Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with 17th century buildings. That said, congratulations Ipswich Central on finally setting your sights higher than Poundland and charity shops. I hope these proposed improvements actually happen, it would be much needed.

    Report this comment

    england1770

    Friday, February 15, 2013

  • Have these people who make reference to Brussels, Trafalgar Square etc. ever seen the size of these areas? You cannot compare our Cornhill with them. It is already an open square and is used for various events, the market, military homecoming parades to name two. But like other schemes in this town it appears to be a foregone conclusion that changes will happen as stated a timetable,competition invite are already underway and funding being sought. The consultation should take place before any more is done and monies expended.

    Report this comment

    Derek Hayward

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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