Community leaders are hoping to see more businesses set up shop in Ipswich town centre this year.

Neil MacDonald, Ipswich Borough Council leader, has described 2023 as a "small positive" for the town amid the cost-of-living crisis affecting trade.

But he has warned the year ahead could be "hard" and outlined his hopes that the larger, vacant stores are filled.

Mr McDonald was speaking as a council report revealed nine new stores opened in the town centre in the quarter four period for 2022/23.

There were 11 new openings in the same period for 2021/22, which was a significant increase on the year before that – which was at the height of the Covid crisis.

The report did not specify how many businesses closed during those periods.

A number of larger stores like Poundland and Wilko shut up shop last year and have not yet been filled.

Mr MacDonald has said the hopes are to encourage a range of businesses to the town centre, including hospitality firms, and see more homes built there in the future.

He expressed his disappointment that four large buildings – Grimwades, Debenhams, BHS and H&M – have not yet been taken over.

The borough council revealed last year it was planning to use special powers to take over the Grimwades building through a compulsory purchase.

Mr MacDonald said: "Last year was a small positive for Ipswich. This year we think will be hard as the economy will be slow. 

Ipswich Star: Neil MacDonald, the leader of Ipswich Borough CouncilNeil MacDonald, the leader of Ipswich Borough Council (Image: Newsquest)

"We might get some businesses go to the wall if they didn't make enough money over the Christmas period.

"But after we get over that hump, we should the town's economy should improve in the future.

"We still have the empty Grimwades, Debenhams, BHS and H&M stores. In terms of improving the feel of the town, they are a bit of a drag.

"But we do have plans for Lloyds Avenue and Arras Square, and the compulsory purchase order of Grimwades.

"It's a bit about moving away from just having a town centre of shops – we want to have flats and homes, as well as places to eat."