Borough looks for major retailer for Grimwades site on Ipswich Cornhill
Hopes of attracting a major retailer to move into the former Grimwades store on Ipswich Cornhill have prompted councillors to reject an application to turn the building into a restaurant.
Members of the borough’s planning committee voted unanimously to turn down an application to turn the three-storey 12,000 square foot building into a huge restaurant.
During the discussion on the application Colin Kreidewolf, who is deputy portfolio holder for economic development at the borough, said: “There is a dearth of units (in the town) capable of being converted into large stores for major retailers.
“There have been suggestions of creating units in the town centre – but this is one that should be considered very seriously.”
Councillors were concerned about the restaurant application because it was “speculative” – no tenant for the building has been identified and councillors were concerned that if they did give permission they would lose control over who came in there.
There were also doubts about the viability of the proposal.
Planning officer Carlos Hone said the building was much larger than other restaurants – and the likelihood was that eventually there would be applications for three separate restaurants with separate kitchens if this application went through.
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The borough’s portfolio holder for planning Carole Jones said if planning permission was granted there was no way of insisting that it was a “high quality” restaurant – the council would be unable to prevent a mass-market burger place from moving in.
She said: “We are not against a change of use in principle, it’s just that this was a speculative application with no specific restaurant name lined up. If more definite plans are produced in the future we will consider them in the normal way.”
Former Conservative group leader John Carnall felt Ms Jones “had said it all.”
He added: “We do not know what we would be getting with this application and that is such an important site in the town centre.”
Business leaders and the Ipswich Vision group have been trying to attract more national names to the town centre, including Next, Zara, and other new fashion groups – the arrival of Jack Wills into the former Croydons store earlier this year was seen as a major boost.
However the lack of modern units has been a problem – the Victorian Grimwades store has been seen as difficult for a major retailer because it operates on several different levels while most companies prefer a “big box” location.
The borough will now be trying to encourage the owners to find a retailer prepared to see the building updated for the 21st century.