Discussions under way over future of former Toys R Us site
PUBLISHED: 05:30 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:14 22 November 2019
The former Toys R Us store at Copdock Mill Interchange could be set for a new lease of life - with discussions under way over its future.
Babergh council is currently in the "early stages" of negotiation about potential future non-retail uses for this key site. It has been empty since the toy giant ceased trading in April 2018, and is now covered in graffiti.
There are hopes it could in the future become a health facility to serve hundreds of new homes being built on the outskirts of Ipswich.
The news comes just as nearby Mothercare is set to close - meaning there will now be three empty stores at Copdock, including the former Multiyork store.
David Busby, Babergh council's spokesman for assets and investment and councillor for Copdock and Washbrook, said the council would not buy the site itself, but was in negotiation with both the owners and potential new users.
"We have some thoughts on Toys R Us - there are some exciting possibilities. I think it's a great site and has great potential," he said.
"We are at an early stage of negotiations. It could be a multi-use building with two different organisations from the health sector based there."
He added it might be possible to build a second floor on to the building. He would not speculate about exactly what type of health organisation might move in, but said: "We would like to combine prevention and cure."
Mr Busby said a new facility would complement the new Wolsey Grange homes development, being built on both sides of the A1071 by homes developer Taylor Wimpey.
The first phase is currently being built and he said, with a further application expected in the new year, eventually there could be around 1,200 homes
Mr Busby added: "We are keen to come up with solutions for all the pressures on infrastructure, and there are other potential sites for some of these things."
'Opportunity for other uses'
Troubled retailer Mothercare this month launched a closing down sale at its Copdock store. after the baby goods chain called in administrators, who announced the phased closure of all its shops across the UK, The Multiyork store closed last year.
Mr Busby commented: "I don't necessarily see the shops being replaced with other retail units. We would be open to other uses.
"I am optimistic - I think the fact that some out-of-fashion retail units are closing gives us the opportunity for other uses, and I don't think we should be negative." However, he said if retailers wanted to move in, Babergh would be open to this too.
A spokesman for FI Real Estate Management, which manages the Toys R Us site, said: "We are continuing to market the property and are currently talking to a number of interested parties, but can confirm we are in early stage negotiations regarding the Toys R Us Ipswich site."
Looking to the immediate future, the Ipswich Vision Partnership has expressed concern that people will in future see three empty stores at the gateway to town.
Terry Hunt, chairman of Ipswich Vision, said: "This is your first view of Ipswich when you're coming from Colchester up the A12.
"My children used to know they were nearly home when they saw Toys R Us. Now people will see three empty shops, giving the message that Ipswich is closed."
He added, if retail was not the answer, he hoped Babergh would show imagination and be able to find suitable new uses. "It's ironic that we have been talking about stresses on the town centre, and out-of-town retail parks are one of the things that is always blamed, but now we are talking about an out-of-town area that is having difficulties."
It is understood there was some interest in the Toys R Us site at Copdock from Marks and Spencer early this year. However that proposal never took off because the nearby Tesco superstore has a covenant preventing any other major food store opening on the site.
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