Clear vision ahead for the future of Ipswich town centre
The seven groups responsible for the development of Ipswich have now all signed up to the long-term vision aimed at bringing new life to the heart of the town.
They have all accepted the vision drawn up by Business Investment District company Ipswich Central to change the emphasis of the town centre – and to make it better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
This week they came together to put their signatures to the new proposal, and set up an Ipswich Vision group to deliver on the individual schemes.
The seven organisations that have signed up are: Ipswich Central, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, UCS, Greater Ipswich Chamber of Commerce, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer.
They have drawn up a 21-point programme to run over the next five years which could transform the town and lead to a significant boost to inward investment.
And they point out that there has already been major success in attracting new investment into the town – although this needs to be built upon further.
The vision’s main object is to create: “East Anglia’s Waterfront Town” which can merge its history as the first town founded by the Anglo-Saxons – making it the oldest “English” town – with an exciting future based on new technology businesses.
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Crucial to this is the future expansion of University Campus Suffolk and the development of a business park on the Island site... alongside the rebirth of Ipswich Museum following the restoration of Christchurch Park.
But vital to this is the reinvention of the town centre linking these parts of the town.
This has already started with tens of millions of pounds being poured into updating its two main shopping centres, Tower Ramparts and Buttermarket, and new shops preparing to open their doors.
However much more needs to be done – from the rebuilding of the Cornhill and repaving the streets to encouraging the construction of new large retail units to bring in modern chain stores that are not represented in the town at present.
The shape of the town centre will change over the years – it will shift from the current east-west axis to a north-south axis linking the historic Christchurch Park and Tower Ramparts area to the Waterfront.
The vision splits the town into ten “quarters” each providing a slightly different character to each other – but all easily accessible to each other on foot. It wants to encourage a rebirth of town centre living with as many as 2,000 new town houses and flats creating a community feel in areas to the east, west and south of the traditional town centre.
The business district that is already being created between the railway station and the town centre should be encouraged and the new independent retailers that have opened in “The Saints” between the town centre and Waterfront should be encouraged.
A clear timetable has been drawn up for the remodelling of the town centre in 21 steps between now and 2020, and the new Ipswich Vision group is to start working on these plans immediately. Each member is being given their own priorities but the regular meetings should ensure the work is co-ordinated.
There is already evidence that private sector investors are looking for opportunities in Ipswich town centre, and the completion of work on the two shopping centres over the next 18 months should give the area another boost.
What they said:
Terry Baxter, chairman Ipswich Central
“I am incredibly proud that the decision by the management and board of Ipswich Central earlier this year, to commission a draft Vision document for the strategic regeneration of this town, has been a catalyst for change.
“For many years Ipswich has been criticised for failing to have a single plan for its regeneration – a ‘Vision’ that unites private and public sectors and willingness for parties, irrespective of their differences, to work for the benefit of the town and its people.
“Well today we have that plan and not only that, but a clear list of priorities that have been identified as ‘key’ to the turnaround of the county town, a timetable for achieving these projects, AND a firm commitment by all parties who have signed up to this Vision to be held to account as we strive to achieve these targets together.”
Ben Gummer MP:
“This is an important moment for the town. For the first time in decades, everyone has come together to support a plan for the restoration and rejuvenation of our town centre.
“It is a plan devised by Ipswich businesses and supported by all partners, councils, the university, the Chamber of Commerce, business organisations and by me.
“It has been hard work getting to this stage but we now have an even tougher task ahead: to make this vision a reality.
“We have made some extremely ambitious commitments and it is our duty now to the people of Ipswich to deliver them.”
Mark Pendlington, chairman New Anglia LEP:
“This vision offers a bold and exciting ambition that will ensure Ipswich is a vibrant and exciting place to live, work and do business for many generations to come.
“It will be a county town that can compete and win against the UK’s best.
“We are delighted to have played a part in bringing all parties around the table for the first time. It is that strength of collaboration and shared sense of responsibility that will drive this project from paper to real material changes for the town.”
David Ellesmere, leader Ipswich Council:
“This is a significant first step towards improving Ipswich town centre. For the first time all the major partners who can bring about change in our town have signed up to a single vision.
“Now we need bold and decisive action to match our words. Our first big test will be whether we can raise the funding to take forward the projects we have agreed.
“Ipswich Borough Council has been first out of the blocks to pledge additional money to bring the vision into reality. I am confident that our other partners will now want to step up to the plate to demonstrate their commitment, too.”
Colin Noble, leader Suffolk County Council:
“This vision will deliver significant improvements for the people of Suffolk and Ipswich. It will mean that the people of Ipswich and Suffolk will benefit from a vibrant local economy, shops and leisure activities, in their county town which are pleasant and easy to access. Some work has already begun or is due to commence soon; we need to work with partners to make other investments a reality. I welcome this exciting Vision: I commit Suffolk County Council to delivering its contribution to making it a reality.”