How Ipswich's Anglia Retail Park rose from disaster to success
- Credit: Paul Geater
Six years ago, the future of the Anglia Retail Park off Bury Road at the north-west entrance to Ipswich looked grim.
Its largest store, B&Q, had announced plans to close and that followed other closures at the park during the credit crunch between 2008 and 2012. It was difficult to see what the future held for the ARP.
But the former owners of the park moved quickly to attract more tenants and re-invigorate it. The Range, Go Outdoors and the Bounce trampoline and play centre took over the former DIY superstore.
In late 2017 the park was bought by Ipswich Borough Assets (IBA), the commercial property company set up by the borough council to produce a rental income that helps to finance council services.
IBA paid £42m for the park - and since then has continued to invest.
By the time it took it over, most of the units were occupied but since its purchase new names have appeared - Smyths Toys, Costa Coffee and Burger King.
The former Pizza Hut unit is due to reopen later this month as a Tim Hortons family diner, creating around 50 jobs, and the former Carphone Warehouse is being taken over by Taco Bell. Costa is about to expand with the construction of a new drive-thru extension.
But the biggest expansion is still in the pipeline - an application to build a new Lidl supermarket on the site of the former B&Q Garden Centre is due to be lodged with Ipswich council shortly.
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Labour councillor Colin Kreidewolf is chair of IBA and said the renaissance of the park was really forming a virtuous circle - as more shoppers were attracted the company was able to get better terms from its tenants.
He said: "The success of the retail park has enabled us to invest in it - improving the park, resurfacing much of it and making it more attractive. It is becoming a more popular destination to visit.
"If we get permission to build a new Lidl here that will give it a greater boost. You'll get people coming for their supermarket shopping but they might combine that visit with a trip to Dunelm or The Range - or stop off for a coffee at Costa."
As well as Anglia Retail Park, IBA also owns Beardmore Park in Martlesham Heath which includes the large Marks and Spencer food store.
Mr Kreidewolf said retail parks appeared to have weathered the Covid pandemic better than other shopping centres - people seemed to like to be able to make quick shopping trips and get straight back into their cars.
Local MP Dr Dan Poulter said he had mixed feelings about IBA's ownership of the Anglia Retail Park: "I am concerned about councils committing large sums of money in investments like this, whether they have the expertise to manage their investment.
"Having said that, the developments at Anglia Retail Park have created hundreds of jobs and given a real boost to this part of Ipswich. It is bringing in shoppers from a wide area who like what it has to offer and that is very good for the area."
There is also concern that the success of retail parks on the outskirts of town will take business away from the town centre that the borough is trying to protect - but Mr Kreidewolf said the two retail concepts could co-exist.
He said: "Town centres will always be better for independent shops - but many retailers want big box units that you can drive straight up to, they simply aren't interested in a comparatively small store in the town centre."