Shopping might not be king, but Ipswich town centre can still thrive

Deckchairs and big screen on the Cornhill

The Cornhill is becoming an important social centre with events like outdoor cinema screenings. - Credit: All About Ipswich

As the transformation of Ipswich town centre from being a retail magnet to a social and leisure hub continues, the councillor charged with boosting its development has looked ahead to a brighter future.

Sarah Barber is Ipswich Council Portfolio Holder for the town centre and said the arrival of new restaurants and cafes - as well as other leisure uses in the town centre - was giving the whole area a major boost.

Interview with outgoing mayor Sarah Barber. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Sarah Baber is portfolio holder for the town centre at the borough.

She said: "We know that shopping habits are changing. People are buying more online or out of the centre - but they still want to meet their friends and the town centre is the ideal place for that.

"It's great to see work going on at the Botanist and at Honey & Harvey - and there's also the new restaurant in the bottom of the Corn Exchange to come."

For generations the Cornhill was the centre for shopping in Ipswich town centre with Footmans (later Debenhams) Grimwades, and Burtons all around the square in the heart of the town, alongside banks, the Post Office and the Town Hall.

Today the banks are all that remain. Burtons has been taken over by shoe seller Deichmann, but the closure of Debenhams has left the Cornhill with very little permanent retail although the market nearly extends to it four days a week.

Once The Botanist and Dough & Co's street food restaurant open some of the market is due to move to the bottom of Lloyd's Avenue - under the arch - while the rest will move to Giles Circus.

Ms Barber said the new restaurants should complement the other leisure attractions in the heart of the town - there are three cinema complexes and two major theatres nearby as well as the Waterfront attractions.

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But while the large chain stores may be a thing of the past, she said the speciality shops - especially the independents - remained a major draw in areas like St Peter's Street.

The street was busy throughout the day, with some shoppers arriving early

Independent shops in St Peter's Street are boosted by regular speciality markets. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

She said: "Independent stores appear to be doing quite well. Many people do like to go out and see what they're buying before they pay for their goods and combined with restaurants and cafes things are looking good for the future."