Confidence in Ipswich town centre reaches new high as retailers sign up for new units in Sailmakers and Buttermarket shopping centres

A major rebuild of The Buttermarket is underway

A major rebuild of The Buttermarket is underway

Businesses in Ipswich are expecting a major vote of confidence in the town centre over the next few months as it emerges that retailers and restaurants are queuing up to come to town.

Tower Ramparts will soon be known as Sailmakers

Tower Ramparts will soon be known as Sailmakers

And a three-year timetable to transform the town centre could be completed with new paving across the central area by the end of 2018.

Work to transform Tower Ramparts into the Sailmakers centre is well under way and the £4million project is on schedule to be completed by the start of the Christmas shopping season in November.

Centre managers LaSalle have let the vast majority of units in the new centre, and are confident more tenants will sign up before the centre opens.

There is a similar story at the Buttermarket centre where the £10m-plus reconstruction is now making visible progress.

Changing face of Ipswich town centre

Changing face of Ipswich town centre

The conversion of new units for New Look and TK Maxx is progressing well – this is the vital first stage of the creation of a 16-screen Empire cinema along with a number of family restaurants.

It is understood that the new owners of the centre – Capital and Regional and Drum Properties – have been very successful in attracting new tenants.

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Now serious talks have started with the owners of land to the east of Upper Brook Street, primarily car park operators NCP, about redeveloping that side of the road and the Turret Lane surface car park. The project could be under way within the next two years.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said he felt the redevelopment of the town centre was on the point of reaching a tipping point which would see the momentum for more work taking off.

He said: “I have lived in Ipswich all my life and I have never known a time when there is so much going on in the town centre.

“If you look there is construction work going on everywhere. The work at Tower Ramparts and the Buttermarket cannot be described as refurbishment, it is full-scale rebuilding of the centres.”

Re-paving the town centre will need partnership funding – there is unlikely to be enough money in the county council budget to fund the project by itself.

But the cabinet member with responsibility for Ipswich, Christopher Hudson, said it would be a project the county would be keen to play an active role in.

He said: “If there is considerable investment in Ipswich over the next few years, that is certainly the kind of project we would like to support to complete the redevelopment of the town centre.”