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Can the ‘positives outweigh the negatives’ as Ipswich fights back against economic downturn?

09 March, 2020 - 05:30
Amazon is coming to the Eastway Enterprise Park at Sproughton. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Amazon is coming to the Eastway Enterprise Park at Sproughton. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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There has been a steady stream of unwelcome economic news over the past few weeks, writes Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere.

Paperchase in Ipswich is closing down. Picture: JUDY RIMMERPaperchase in Ipswich is closing down. Picture: JUDY RIMMER

Fears over the impact of the Coronavirus have led to large falls in stock markets.

Direct Line has announced it is closing its Ipswich office within the next two years, citing a movement of their customers from phone to internet.

More: Direct Line to axe 300 jobs as Ipswich office closes

Town centre stores, Paperchase and Orwells Butchers, have announced their closure.

More: Town centre set to lose Paperchase as another store exits Ipswich

While there is a natural tendency to focus on bad news, we shouldn't forget that there is some positive as well. We are still able to attract new private sector investment to the town centre.

Shoe retailer Deichman will be opening in the old Burtons and Dorothy Perkins building after refurbishment work.

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Sports Direct have announced that, as well as moving their existing store, they will be opening a new Flannels and USC in the former BHS building.

More: New life for former BHS store as Sports Direct look to relocate

This is a significant investment in the town centre. Almost half the former BHS stores in Britain are still empty. Many people, myself included, did not believe that we would see a single occupier for this building again and that it would take public sector investment, probably at a loss, to bring it back into use.

I am glad we have been proved wrong.

At the last council meeting I was able to report that there is serious interest from a potential occupier of the Old Post Office. I am aware of another quality retailer who is looking to move to the town centre.

We have also been able to announce that we have signed up the latest occupier to the former sugar beet site at Sproughton. The new Amazon warehouse is another multi-million pound investment in Ipswich which will bring hundreds of new jobs to our town.

And we have also secured £500,000 from Suffolk's Pooled Business rates as a contribution towards our plans to regenerate the derelict buildings at the entrance to the Waterfront.

We may well see more bad news over the coming months but the Borough Council and all its Ipswich Vision partners are working hard to try and ensure that the positive outweighs the negative.

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