Could the transformation of the eyesrore ‘Wine Rack’ to luxury flats restart by Christmas? Fresh hope for Ipswich Waterfront

Developer John Howard takes Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling on a tour of the "Wine Rac

Developer John Howard takes Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling on a tour of the "Wine Rack" on the Ipswich Waterfront as part of the EU referendum campaign. - Credit: Su Anderson

Work to transform an unfinished concrete tower on Ipswich Waterfront into 150 “luxurious” flats should start by the end of the year, the developer has said.

Regatta Quay, known locally as the Wine Rack.

Regatta Quay, known locally as the Wine Rack. - Credit:

An update on the building’s progress was announced by owner John Howard yesterday as he gave Conservative politician and leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling a tour of the structure.

Leading Brexit supporter Mr Grayling was visiting Ipswich as part of the Vote Leave campaign trail ahead of the European Union referendum on June 23.

It will take 18 months to complete the development of Regatta Quay, nicknamed locally as the Wine Rack, and will cost around £20million.

“The tenders have all come back in and after a bit of haggling I think we are just about there and we know who we wish to use,” said Mr Howard.

“The majority of funding for the project has come from the Government and we are just on the final throws of sorting that part of it out.”

Building work on Regatta Quay began in 2007, but stopped in 2009 when the developer went into administration.

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The 20-storey building was bought in 2014 by Marina Developments (Ipswich) Ltd, which is headed by Mr Howard and business partner Jeremy Scowsill.

The concrete skeleton came to symbolise the crippling effects of the 2008 economic crisis on the town, and Mr Howard said it would be a massive boost for business in Ipswich once the flats were ready for use.

He added: “I think first of all you will have an influx of people living here, so that’s got to help.

“From the Ipswich Borough Council point of view they will get a lot more rates, because at the moment there aren’t any coming in, so that’s really good news, and they are all going to be spending locally and enjoying what is a wonderful Waterfront.”

Describing his vision for the finished properties, Mr Howard said: “It will be modern, luxurious and aspirational – that’s the feel we want.”

Despite backing Britain’s exit from the EU, Mr Howard said the development of the wine rack would go ahead no matter what the results of the referendum were.

“Chris was invited down today to really show off what hopefully will be happening whether we are in or out of Europe,” Mr Howard said.

“Out of all the developments I have ever done this is probably the most challenging and the most frustrating, but we are on the last run now hopefully of being able to make some positive announcements.”

Brexit campaigner Chris Grayling says migration is putting pressure on services in Suffolk

One of the main players in the Brexit campaign has said Suffolk will feel the impact of a growing population if the UK stays in the European Union.

Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling visited Ipswich to get an update on the development of Regatta Quay, an unfinished block on flats on the Waterfront.

Mr Grayling said the idea that the UK would stop being able to trade freely with other countries across the world after leaving the EU was “ridiculous”.

“I think business will carry on normally,” he said. “I don’t believe it will change at all because it’s not in their interest that it should because we buy far more from them than they do from us, and the one thing you don’t do is get rid of your biggest customers.”

In the East of England, Mr Grayling said there were “huge issues” around migration, with pressure placed on public services, housing, roads, hospitals and schools.

“If we carry on with a situation where we are importing a population the size of Newcastle upon Tyne into this country every year, in places like Suffolk there’s going to be a continuous pressure to build more houses,” Mr Grayling said.

“We will have to accept that if the flow of population increase continues it means that more and more greenbelt land, more and more open spaces, are going to have to be built on to accommodate that, and I don’t think that’s what people want.

“I’m not in the business of saying people who are here already and playing a part in our society and our economy should somehow be sent home, that’s not the idea.

“Whether you are someone whose family has lived in this country for a thousand years, or someone who has moved from Eastern Europe ten years ago, everyone has got children who want to get on the housing ladder in the future, everyone wants to have best opportunities for their families, if we have a continuous flow of people in the country it will become more difficult.”