Could Lloyds Avenue be covered over as part of Ipswich town centre rejuvination?

An architects impression of the proposed new look for Ipswich Cornhill

An architects impression of the proposed new look for Ipswich Cornhill - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Central wants to see new major new retail developments in the town concentrated in the “Central Quarter” – with a revamped Cornhill at its heart.

An architects impression of the proposed new look for Ipswich Cornhill

An architects impression of the proposed new look for Ipswich Cornhill - Credit: Archant

With the new Cornhill completed, and a new use found for the former Grimwades’ store, the town centre should become an attractive and bustling centre.

However Ipswich Central, as part of their new Vision for the town centre, sees other major changes to the area to attract new businesses. It wants to see Lloyds Avenue becoming completely pedestrianised, with a new location found for the taxis that currently use this cul de sac. It would like to see the road either tree-lined or – even more radically – roofed over to create an attractive new shopping centre.

As part of its redevelopment, it would like to see the Mecca bingo hall moved and for Debenhams to re-open the entrances into Lloyds Avenue that were closed years ago.

While there are empty stores in the town centre, potential retailers are put off moving to Ipswich because of the lack of suitable units in the town centre.

Could Lloyds Avenue be covered?

Could Lloyds Avenue be covered? - Credit: Archant

This is because while older units might look attractive, they are often not what modern multiple retailers are looking for from a town centre.

Ipswich Central suggests that the stores on the eastern side of Upper Brook Street – facing Sainsburys and Wilkinsons – should be demolished and replaced by “big box” stores that could replace retailers that would otherwise only look at out-of-town retail parks.

Crucial to this strategy is the siting of a major multi-storey car park behind, enabling shoppers to carry large purchases straight out of the store and into their cars.

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It believes these could appeal to “out of town”-style shops that would otherwise take business away from the town centre.

Older stores are often not so attractive to such companies because they have to develop their shopfloor around a pre-existing plan which can be awkward for them – that is one of the reasons it has been so difficult to find new permanent tenants for the former Grimwades and Croydons stores.

One of the more controversial proposals is moving the market permanently into Queen Street to allow the Cornhill itself to be used for street cafes and entertainment.

Ipswich Central hopes that alternative and specialist markets could become a regular feature in the town centre – spreading from Queen Street down Princes Street and along the Buttermarket Street.

Shopping centres

At the heart of the Central Quarter, as outlined in the vision for Ipswich, are the Buttermarket and Sailmakers (Tower Ramparts) centres.

The revamped Sailmakers will continue to have retail at its heart. It has already seen two major new stores created in it over the last year and other tenants have committed themselves to the centre as it prepares for a multi-million pound makeover.

Its proximity to one of the town’s bus stations and a rebuilt Crown Car Park makes it attractive to retailers – and if a single bus station is created for the town it could expand nearer to Crown Street.

The Buttermarket Centre is only a short distance away – but that is set to have a different future as a leisure-led area in the heart of the town.

Its new owner is hoping to carve out a 16-screen cinema alongside six family restaurants and a gym in the centre while retaining most of its busiest stores.

These centres are seen as vital for the town as it competes to attract shoppers from other centres across the region.

Ipswich Central’s document points out: “Consideration must be given to the modern-day customer who views shopping, eating and drinking as a single joined-up experience.”

Alternative uses will have to be considered for other landmark buildings like Grimwades and the Old Post Office on the Cornhill which is likely to become vacant over the next few years.

Ipswich would benefit from more high-quality good-value family restaurants – and these could be prime candidates for conversion over the next few years.

The document would, however, sound the death knell for the long-discussed Mint Quarter project.

Most of that would be outside the Central Quarter and would not be considered for retail development – the only shops on that site would be the new “big box” units on Upper Brook Street.

Specialist shops

A key requirement of Ipswich Central’s vision is that major new non-food retail in the town should be concentrated in the Central Quarter of the town.

That would mean the borough council would reject any proposals for major new stores to be built outside this area – in a bid to strengthen its retail heart.

While smaller specialist shops – such as those which have thrived along St Peter’s St and St Nicholas St – would be allowed, as would some smaller units around the Waterfront, new large stores would have to look to the Central Quarter.

This would effectively rule out any proposal to build large-scale retail on the former Civic Centre site or on the Mint Quarter – apart from new stores in Upper Brook St.

Ipswich Central also wants the borough to reject any proposals for out of town stores on retail parks except for those selling almost exclusively bulky goods.