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Town centre faces tough facts of life

15:32 22 January 2013

Thousands of people came to the the Ipswich Christmas lights switch on in the Cornhill.

Thousands of people came to the the Ipswich Christmas lights switch on in the Cornhill.

I REALLY was rather disappointed by the trading figures that were revealed by Ipswich Central for the pre-Christmas period earlier this week.

The great new Christmas lights that brightened up the town centre, combined with the sparkling new tree and the events laid on to surround the festive run-in had brought an optimistic glow to the town.

And the positive comments we heard from Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement made it seem as if all was well in the town centre.

However when the figures came out this week, they showed that trading was actually 2.9 per cent down on 2011, and that was a considerably larger fall than the national average – even when internet sales were taken out.

I accept that the roadworks and the new out of town stores like John Lewis at home had an impact – but the roadworks are necessary if the town is to modernise and I’m afraid that out of town shopping centres are a fact of life.

There is no major department store, John Lewis or anyone else for that matter, that wants to come to the town centre.

They didn’t want to move into the empty unit in the Buttermarket.

They didn’t want to take the smaller empty unit in Tower Ramparts, and they didn’t want to build a new department on either the Mint Quarter or the Civic Centre site.

Maybe we all suffer from the belief that the town centre should be dominated by shops.

Yes, retail is important – but bringing in new users like the Vue cinema proposed for the Buttemarket centre is probably even more important for the future.

Shopping has been a great leisure activity of the last 30 years.

As more of us are buying more online (and where else will we find music that is not on a top-30 album in the future?) we will find other things to do in our leisure time.

We will want more places to meet for a coffee or a snack, more places to listen to small-scale live music, more places for “events” to happen.

To be fair to Mr Clement and Ipswich Central, no one recognises this fact more than them – but it will not be an easy concept for many who have a traditional view of the town centre to grasp. And it is a change that will have to be handled with care if Ipswich is to thrive.

7 comments

  • @ash the man - it's the "absolutely nothing there" attitude which isn't helping the town. Whilst I wouldn't argue there are huge gaps in the high street there's still some very good retailers and some very good new retaielrs, like white stuff, office and lush. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - the more people insist on only seeing the "awful", awful it will become. It's like the people who cleverly boast about shopping in Bury or Colchester and then wonder why those town centres are better... um, I wonder why? Because if you don't use it, lose it. Norwich in the other hand is a different kettle of fish - loved by it's city folk and the people of norfolk it can do no wrong. it's a regional centre, it is far enough away from london to attract bigger retailers (Ipswich is far to close to Stratford.... and u see Stratford will affect colchester too, as those halflways stragglers from Shenfield and the like head to Westfield instead). It's like comparing apples and organges. Until the people of Ipswich get behind their town, and then the people of Suffolk (who we all know prefer Bury "because it's posher") then it really won't compete. That's why the council went further afield, using the waterfront and the uni to attract people from beyond, who don't have the prejudices against Ipswich that Suffolk people do... and to an extent it's working...it just takes time and until them we need to keep supporting.

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    Scott Brock

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

  • Ipswich town centre is awful, absolutely nothing there. Using Norwich as a comparison, the differences are night and day. Added to that, we have a Council that seems determined to keep people away from the town centre by annoying anyone that drives there with pointless roadworks and expensive (and lacking) parking. Face it, most people that go into town to buy "stuff" need to get it home...usually in their car boot....oh and a return bus fare on the Route 66...pretty much 5 quid per person. Scandalous.

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    ash theman

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

  • Ipswich council is now reaping the rewards for its bad management over the years ! high business rates poor planning decisions! poor parking why build a college like the suffolk one on the outskirts surely it would have been better for the students to catch a bus into the town centre instead of the a couple that is now required ! also this would have meant a large footfall of persons with a disposable income in the town centre! why when all the developments were being approved for the waterfront! wasnt a link between the two areas forged ? why close the park and ride at bury road ? why approve so many supermarkets!? It seem the council are only interested in national chains and not the small independent shops this is the reason why people go to places like bury and colchester becasue they have small independent shops selling items that may not be available elsewhere alongside the national chains and the parking is easy and cheap !

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    penfold the mole

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Planners and the Borough Council had the opportunity in the nineties to create a beautiful town centre on an axis from Christchurch Park, via the Cornhill, to the waterfront. Instead we have no proper pedestrianisation, a Cornhill obscured by a scruffy market and a Waterfront dominated by inappropriate high blocks. And they wonder why it has failed!

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    Meltonian

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • Absolutely right. The future of town centre's is not just about shopping. A really good example is Westfield Stratford... A shopping centre it may be, but about 50% of it is anything but shops - it has a cinema, a hotel, a casino, about 50 restaurants, a bowling alley, an indoor market, and well, the Olympic Park. They were aware they needed more than "a few cool shops" to draw in shoppers. The Vue cinema in the Buttermarket is a great idea, as is the new restaurants that will come with it. I also think the owners of Tower Rampsts should consider a bowling alley in there. It's time to draw people to town to socialise more, all hours of the day. When they're therel, they'll shop too. It's only natural. Good food, coffee, gyms, health and beauty, live venues, bars, cinemas, social spaces are really important to the future vibrancy of the town... looks at what the Waterfront proved... There's "nothing there" as some people say except "coffee shops and yachts" but there's no denying it's an attractive place and it draws visitors. The town centre needs the same attention. And it needs to be smaller... much smaller... it's far too spread out.

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    Scott Brock

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

  • The ongoing and major problem with the town centre is the Ncp car parking area which should have been the mint quarter developent. The lack of investment in this area has caused other shopping town's to outmaneouvre Ipswich Council. This very large town centre area is the brake on development of the town centre. It seems obvious to me that Ncp just want to make money, but they are stymying any growth by lack of investment. The rest of the town centre is presentable. I'm amazed there isn't a lobbying group or press attention to put pressure on IBC andor Ncp to do something positive for the traders and customers of the town centre.

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    Dataminer1

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • @ dataminer - you are absolutely right. Though I don't think that's the right site any more... the cattle market would be better. And the NCP carpark should be carpark, bus station, town housing (plenty of houses and a few flats) and a public square to get people living in the town centre and provide a nice social space. This mix of uses would also make it way more viable. But NCP are not a developer... they run carparks so they don't know how to get this off the ground... they need to make a deal with a developer.

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    Scott Brock

    Friday, January 25, 2013

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

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