Speculation is mounting that Marks and Spencer could soon be finally given the green light to take over the former Toys R Us store on the edge of Ipswich.

The retail giant has been linked with the former toy superstore building ever since it closed in 2018 - but its move was blocked because of fears for the future of its store in Ipswich town centre.

Now it is understood that the company is being asked to guarantee it will retain the Westgate Street store for at least 10 years as part of a deal to move to Copdock - although the town centre store may be much smaller.

There are a number of different parties involved in the former Toys R Us site.

The building is owned by Ipswich Borough Assets, the property arm of Ipswich council. But Suffolk County Council owns the freehold of some of the land that would be needed.

Also Tesco, which has the largest store at the Interchange Retail Park at the Copdock Interchange, was given a covenant over the rest of the site when it opened in 1987 to give it the right to veto an plans for a similar store on the park.

It is understood Tesco was prepared to negotiate on that veto when M&S started looking at the site in 2018 - but it is not clear whether any agreement was reached because no deal was done on the building.

The site is actually in Babergh district - and its council would need to give planning permission for any changes to the site.

Although the unit has been used for retail, and would continue as such, there were restrictions on the type of goods that could be sold by Toys R Us and these would need to be relaxed if M&S were to take it over.

Ipswich Borough Assets bought the building in 2020 and at the time its chair Colin Kreidewolf made it clear that  the purchase was designed to protect the town centre and prevent M&S leaving Westgate Street.

Ipswich Star: Colin Kreidewolf at the former Toys R Us in 2020.Colin Kreidewolf at the former Toys R Us in 2020. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Mr Kreidewolf said on Thursday that he and IBA were unable to make any comment on the speculation that had started about the future of M&S.

If the speculation is correct, it could be that M&S in the town centre would revert to the size it was before its expansion in the early 1990s with a food hall and limited clothing offer - but with a desk for a click and collect service.

Ipswich Star: Marks and Spencer in Westgate Street could stay open for another 10 years.Marks and Spencer in Westgate Street could stay open for another 10 years. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Nationally the company has made no secret of its strategy to move out of town centres to retail parks - and to expand its food stores.

The Martlesham Food Hall, also in a building owned by IBA, was expanded a few years ago and it is now planning to open another Simply Food store at Stowmarket.

In Colchester it closed its City Centre store and moved to a huge new retail warehouse at Stane Park at Stanway.

So any commitment to retain a town centre presence in Ipswich for the next decade is likely to be widely welcomed - although there would be some disappointment at the loss of the full range currently on offer.

The company has not generally commented on the future of existing stores until it is ready to make a formal announcement - although it did say that the plans for a new food hall at Stowmarket would not affect existing stores.

We have contacted M&S for a comment on the renewed speculation, but so far the company has not been able to provide a response.