On the face of it there has been a series of good news stories from Ipswich town centre over the last few weeks - but how much planning has gone into this news?

It does rather look as if everything positive that is coming out of the town centre at present is business-led and the council is either scrabbling about trying to respond or just left looking totally blind-sided.

We've had two of the biggest names in the town centre doing an about-face and deciding to stay in the town centre after previously announcing plans to pull out.

The decisions by Poundland to retain its Sailmakers store and Omniplex Cinemas to stay in the Buttermarket centre have the look of businesses playing hard-ball with their landlords all over them.

Obviously the fact they were threatening to pull out of the town was concerning for customers, cinema-goers, and their landlords - not to mention those who are concerned by the general viability of the town centre.

But their concern must pale into insignificance in comparison to the sheer worry that must have overtaken their employees.

I'm sure the businesses will have achieved a good deal for their shareholders - but they have come away giving the impression that they treat their employees in a pretty shoddy way.

In all of these negotiations, of course, the borough council and Ipswich Central were nothing more than bystanders.

The same can be said of the long-awaited announcement from Fraser's Group that they are finally going to get on with reopening the former BHS store in the Butter Market street that they bought the freehold of four years ago.

Fraser's (the group behind Sports Direct) are something of a nightmare for local authorities and the media.

They have a policy of not talking about their plans until they are all agreed with their contractors and a firm timescale is drawn up.

This makes it very difficult for planners to deal with them when trying to draw up regeneration plans for an area - or for those of us who are trying to find out what is happening when there are all kinds of improbable rumours flying around.

On several occasions I've been asked by councillors - and even senior borough officers - if I had any more idea than them about what was planned for the store (and when) but ultimately the only people who were in a position to do anything about it was Frasers - and when they did say something earlier this month it was all done and dusted.

But whatever, it is good news that such a prominent building should be back in use at the end of this summer, eight years after it closed with the collapse of BHS.

Another part of the town centre where sense and logic appears to be lacking is Carr Street.

One of the finest retail buildings in the town - the former Co-op Department Store - is to be demolished to make way for a school. And even the listed mural now looks set to go.

I'm sure the school will be a great success handily placed next to a garish candy and vape store!

Ipswich Star: Is this the ugliest building in Ipswich town centre?Is this the ugliest building in Ipswich town centre? (Image: Newsquest)

Meanwhile, the former Woolworth's store, probably the ugliest building in the town centre, is set for a new life as an international food supermarket.

Don't get me wrong, I think an international food supermarket would be a superb addition to the town centre. 

It's just a pity that such an ugly building gets a new use when an attractive site like the department store is set for the wrecking ball - but then money talks and the aesthetic value of the town centre seems way down on the list of priorities.


The opinions expressed in this column are the personal views of Paul Geater and do not necessarily reflect views held by this newspaper, its sister publications or its owner and publisher Newsquest Media Group Ltd.