Ipswich: What should be done to boost town centre? We ask businesses how they would breathe new life into Ipswich

What would you do to boost the town centre?

What would you do to boost the town centre? - Credit: Archant

We want your one big idea to really revitalise Ipswich town centre.

That’s the call from The Star today as we launch a survey of Ipswich businesses – in a bid to find new ways of breathing fresh life into the town centre.

We want to know what one single improvement firms would like to see introduced by decision-makers responsible for the heart of Ipswich.

Today we ask: What could those in authority do to boost business – and take the town’s retail sector to a whole new level?

We’ve written to 50 town centre businesses, and our survey has received the backing of the borough council, which has promised to take notice of the results.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the authority was happy to hear the views of businesses about what can be done to improve the town. He said: “We would find the results of the survey very useful and when we have got the feedback we would obviously sit down and look at what the concerns are of the traders.

“There might be things we as a borough council can address, and there might be other things we might have to approach government about.

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“We do talk to businesses and I would be very interested to see if anything new crops up, but I don’t want to prejudge what might be said by them.”

Mr Ellesmere said traders in Ipswich were facing issues such as the economy and internet shopping troubling town centres across the country, but also problems specific to Ipswich, such as car parking charges and business rates.

The borough had reduced prices at its own car parks, which has attracted more use, and was pressing for an earlier review of business rates – due to be revalued in 2015 and which may now be further delayed – as the nationally-set rates were based on rents which had been set in very different market conditions in 2008, at the height of the property market.

The role of Ipswich and Suffolk councils is crucial to the development of the town – as is that of the newly-formed Local Enterprise Partnership and Ipswich Central.

There is a limit to what the authorities can do – unlike in other towns the borough council controls very few car parks after most of its spaces were sold off or were lost when the Crown multi-storey was demolished more than three years ago.

However, there are other things that authorities can do to make the town more attractive – and we want to know what businesses think. Will the changes to the road network make it easier to reach the town centre? Will they encourage more visitors from outside town?

A great deal of effort is being put into trying to link The Waterfront with the traditional town centre – to encourage more people to make the short walk from the main shopping area to the attractive Wet Dock.

But how should that be done? And is it realistic to expect more shoppers to visit cafés, pubs and restaurants beside the water?

We will be asking businesses one simple question – what one improvement to the town would you like to see?

The results will be passed to all the bodies concerned, and we will be asking what they plan to do to address concerns and suggestions that arise.

With so much negative feeling towards the town, the Ipswich Star launched the I Love Ipswich campaign to celebrate the achievements of the town. And through our new survey, we want to know how you think we can create more positive changesin the town.