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Town ‘could prove magnet to London buyers’ as lockdown shifts perceptions about work and life

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 May 2020

Ipswich is about to feel the benefits of a huge change looming in how people work and live, the developer behind a key waterfront building predicts.

As the coronavirus lockdown begins to ease, Winerack developer John Howard believes many people working in London and living either in or close to the capital are currently re-evaluating how they live and work as a result of lockdown.

“I think people are reassessing their lives, are reassessing their quality of life,” he said.

The eight week confinement has caused many employers – and workers – to take another look at how work is done.

MORE – Town port boss ‘very proud’ as figures reveal its vital role during lockdown

Many businesses – previously highly sceptical of home working – have been won over after seeing benefits in productivity and overall contentment among their workforces.

Mr Howard – who is the driving force behind transforming the Winerack from a half-built eyesore abandoned after its owners went bust into a luxury £30m apartment building – believes this will drive a change in the property market.

The Winerack was launched at the beginning of the year with prices starting at £152,500 for a one-bedroom flat and rising to £475,000 for a three-bedroom duplex penthouse. While lockdown has slowed sales because viewings were banned, 45% of the new homes are already sold, and Mr Howard believes there is strong pent-up demand.

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Buyers are attracted to mainline station towns such as Ipswich and Diss which have direct links into London as it meant they could commute when they needed to, he said.

But if, as he suspects, city workers shift to spending fewer of their working days in London, many will be tempted to move further out and enjoy a better lifestyle for less money. The waterfront scheme is attracting a lot of cash buyers and first-time buyers, he said.

“Even through the lockdown we have still completed on quite a few,” he said. “We have weathered the storm very well.”

With this week’s easing of lockdown, and viewings resumed, he believes the pace will pick up.

“It’s very interesting because we own Fine and Country Norfolk with the Winerack and with Fine and Country we have noticed a big demand in Suffolk and Norfolk. I can only think it’s because people are based close to London and have worked from home (during lockdown) and thought: ‘We can move further out,’” he said.

“I think they are looking for a bit of quality of life. They see Suffolk and Ipswich as a quality place to live in.”

Mr Howard also revealed that one of three commercial units, a 2,500sq ft space at the base of the Winerack building has been let to an undisclosed tenant. There is also “fairly firm” interest from a tech firm in a 4,000sq ft unit.

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