�650k town centre improvement scheme for Ipswich

A MAJOR scheme to improve Ipswich town centre is set to begin next month.

IPSWICH: What would you spend the money on?

Despite the threat of a funding squeeze on public services, Ipswich Borough Council has announced a major scheme to improve an area of the town centre.

Work to expand Giles Circus at the corner of Princes Street and Queen Street starts in late February and will take around 24 weeks.

Funding for the �650,000 scheme - which includes relocating the Giles statue and placing it on a plinth - has come from the Haven Gateway Partnership while the remainder has come from council coffers.

However, the project has received criticism from the borough's opposition Labour group.

Leader David Ellesmere said: “The Labour group's opinion is that this is such a massive amount of money to spend on a project like this. This should not be the council highest priority when there are far greater issues affecting the town.

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“Crown Car Park is an example of the council's neglect. In addition, there are so many empty shops in the town centre - solving problems like this are far more important and would help in bringing more people to the town.

“It's a big statue but it doesn't require this big amount of money - it's too much money to move a statue a couple of metres.”

The Queen Street and Princes Street loop and King Street will still be open to traffic although the area could be pedestrianised in the future following further consultation, councillors revealed.

Ipswich Borough Council's transport portfolio holder Tanya de Hoedt defended the expenditure.

“This is a major improvement scheme for the town centre and will make a key site much more attractive for people,” she said.

“Granny's relocation, the seating and a much bigger pedestrian space will, I'm sure, be a hit with shoppers, town centre workers and visitors alike.

“We consulted widely, put on a big public exhibition in the town hall and contacted several hundred businesses.

“For example, charities told us that visually impaired people would find low kerbs safer than same-level roads and pavements so we have heeded their advice. That is what consultation is all about.”

Traffic will have to use Friars Street instead of the Queen Street and Princes Street loop for a short time during the work.

What do you think of the proposals? Would the cash be better spent elsewhere? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The project will include:

n The statue of Giles character Granny being moved closer to the Corn Exchange and Barclays Bank;

n Granny will be raised on a silver-grey granite plinth, with seating provided in the open space around her;

n Existing motorcycle parking being moved to an increased number of spaces in sites across the town centre;

n Replacement cycle parking is to be sited alongside the Corn Exchange;

n The traffic flow in Butter Market will be reversed to come from Upper Brook Street to Giles Circus with two-way cycling introduced;

n The planting of five large trees to improve the street scene;

n Top-quality stone will be used to replace existing pavements and granite setts to replace the road surfaces.