East of England Co-op unveils major renovation plans for sites in Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 06:03 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:30 08 February 2017
The East of England Co-op has unveiled big regeneration plans in Ipswich - with the firm revealing that a failed bid by Sports Direct for its Carr Street site has paved the way for a new school.
Largely known for it’s food stores and funeral services, the East of England Co-op also has a vast network of investment property across the region worth more than £100million.
In recent months that arm of the business has been working on major projects to regenerate key parts of Ipswich, which the firm this week unveiled to the Ipswich Star and East Anglian Daily Times.
Having submitted three planning applications to demolish derelict buildings in Ipswich in the last six months of 2016, the Co-op has unveiled details of its next stage.
Among those is a plan to build up to 130 homes and a new health centre on the former Coastal Building Supplies and car garage in Derby Road (see below), and renovation of its former funeral service in Cauldwell Hall Road into five houses to let.
But perhaps the biggest overhaul is for its former Carr Street department store where work to establish a new school is taking shape.
As part of that, the former Barnes carpet store in Upper Orwell Street and the former garden centre in Cox Lane are both set for demolition.
Nick Denny, joint chief executive said: “In terms of how Carr Street is located as a retail unit, the chances are it is probably unlikely to ever be another retail unit because of the way it is configured.
“There are some challenges how it can be redeveloped in its current footprint.
“We have been marketing it very actively over the last few years.
“We had an offer from Sports Direct on it two years ago now and that didn’t progress.
“We did a lot of work on it and it didn’t progress for whatever the reason is, I think Sports Direct decided to stay where they are.
“We have had other bits of interest but interest has been limited firstly because of the size of it and secondly in relation to where it is in the town centre.”
Since the Sports Direct deal fell through, the Co-op has been working alongside Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and the Education Funding Agency in a bid to establish a school – either in the existing building or developing a brand new facility.
“We would love to see that site come forward for a school,” Mr Denny said.
“The important thing is the delivery of a school site because that’s what the town needs, it’s going to be good for the town and really regenerate the site.”
It is understood the school plans are favoured by all partners involved.
The plans are also exploring some community facilities there, which would help bring people to that part of town on the evenings and weekends to further boost the area.
So why is the demolition and regeneration plan across town working so successfully?
“Having an empty building, it creates uncertainty for the people that live there in the community, and I think by going on and removing the building it does signify at some point in the near future that regeneration will occur,” Mr Denny said.
“The demand for those sorts of buildings as retail use is very, very limited. We think by doing that it’s going to tidy up the visual appearance in the first place, it will create a slightly more open feeling to the site as well, and I am very, very keen that people know that we do want to get the site regenerated and redeveloped.
Having knocked down the former Coastal Building Supplies store and Peugeot dealership in Derby Road, a plan to build 100-130 homes and a healthcare facility like the Two Rivers Medical Centre is currently top of the agenda for the five-acre site.
Discussions have been ongoing for 18 months, and the overhaul will also help provide additional land for Rose Hill Primary School next door.
Mr Denny added: “We are bringing those brownfield sites back into use to provide different uses for which there is currently a demand.
“We want to see those sites be as attractive and well used as possible.”
The site is located directly behind the expanded Rosehill Retail centre, which is currently in development by the Co-op.