£10million confidence vote for Ipswich

ON the day that the insurance giant AXA unveils a substantial boost in profits, the company issued a £10million vote of confidence in Ipswich.It is to go ahead with the renovation and updating of Suffolk House on Civic Drive - and investing in the building for the long-term.

ON the day that the insurance giant AXA unveils a substantial boost in profits, the company issued a £10million vote of confidence in Ipswich.

It is to go ahead with the renovation and updating of Suffolk House on Civic Drive - and investing in the building for the long-term.

Suffolk House, next to AXA's existing headquarters in the town, has been vacant since TXU Energi closed its operations there two years ago.

The large office building is shrouded in scaffolding because the cladding is unsafe and this will come down once repairs have taken place.


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The building's freehold has been owned by Ipswich Borough Council and leased to AXA on a long-term agreement - but now the company has negotiated to buy the freehold from the borough.

AXA's customer relations director Andy Fairchild was enthusiastic about the move: “At present we have staff at a number of different locations in Ipswich. By bringing this building back into use we can all be on the one site.

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“We have already announced we are taking on an extra 130 people to deal with new business and we are hoping to continue to increase the number of people here.”

The Evening Star first broke the news of the massive redevelopment in October 2004 and early preparatory work for the refurbishment took place early last year but today's announcement by AXA means the major stages of the work are now imminent.

Mr Fairchild said the newly redeveloped Suffolk House would be opened in stages.

He said: “There are seven storeys here, and we need four of those to be occupied straight away. The other three will be brought into use as and when they are needed.

“But the exterior will all be completely repaired and restored from the outset. We want to be very proud of our headquarters.”

That pride extends to looking for a new name for the building.

Mr Fairchild said: “Part of the building is known as Suffolk House and the other part is known as the extension. We want a new name for the whole place. We shall be asking our staff for suggestions, but we would be delighted to have any from Evening Star readers.”

IPSWICH Council chief executive James Hehir was very enthusiastic about AXA's vote of confidence in the town - and was pleased to have negotiated the sale of the freehold of Suffolk House.

He said: “This shows that a major international company wants to invest in a town that is really going places. We have 18,000 new homes being built here and we want to provide good jobs for the people who are going to live there.

“AXA is a very significant employer for the town and it is very good that they want to expand here.

“From the council's point of view this will give us a substantial capital receipt which will help our financial situation and allow us to move forward.

“There are some further major developments taking shape over the next few years with the move to our new headquarters, the redevelopment of the Civic Centre site and the further developments in Ipswich Village.”

At present AXA employs 1,200 people in Ipswich - but hopes to expand further.

The company is French-owned and is one of the largest insurance businesses in the world.

It became established in Britain after buying Guardian Assurance, which had its home in Civic Drive.

As well as operating insurance under its own name, AXA provides insurance for many other well-known companies including Lloyds TSB, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's insurance customers.

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