An eventful year for the High Street - so get shopping

Paul Clement, chief executive, Ipswich Central

Paul Clement, chief executive, Ipswich Central - Credit: Archant

Town Topics with Ipswich Central

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these columns for Star Business throughout 2014.

So, as Christmas fast approaches, it is a good opportunity to reflect upon what has been an eventful year to say the least.

Economic recovery became evident with numerous important business-led investment decisions.

There are too many to name each one, but a selection includes the owners of Tower Ramparts shopping centre committing to a multi-million pound refurbishment programme that would include a new name; Birketts solicitors announcing a move to brand new offices to be built for them on Princes Street; Scruttons accountants relocating to newly refurbished premises; and even the Wine Rank being purchased with commitments that it should soon be completed.

Of course, it wasn’t all good news.

Like most town centres, Ipswich saw further churn in the retail sector with stores like Phones 4U disappearing. Yet, it has been nothing like the “bloodbath on the high street” that one national newspaper predicted in January when it suggested that 12,000 shops would fall vacant in 2014.

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In fact, occupancy didn’t decline - it increased.

I predict that the trend will continue next year. It will be assisted tremendously if proposals to relax planning regulations are embraced by local authorities, allowing town centre shops to more easily be turned into restaurants, and offices to be converted to flats.

So 2015 looks as if it could be a year of growth and investment.

If optimism is maintained, employment continues to rise, investment picks up still further and interest rates remain low, it could be a very exciting year for Ipswich’s town centre.

I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas everyone!

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