New town centre school to feature rooftop playground

coop department store frontage in ipswich

Permission has been granted for the demolition of the former Co-op Department Store in Carr Street, Ipswich. A new school will be built on the site - Credit: Jason Noble

The former Co-op department store in Ipswich will be bulldozed after approval was granted to demolish the building to make way for a new primary school with rooftop garden.

The new Central Ipswich Primary School will now be built on the site of the redundant department store after it was agreed that the site could be cleared at Ipswich Borough Council’s planning and development committee on Wednesday morning.

Members voted to approve the plans by 10 votes to two in favour of the Department for Education's new project.

The school, to be run by the Active Learning Trust, will cater for 420 primary pupils and 26 nursery children.

Agents on behalf of the DfE said they looked in detail at whether the building – which dates back to 1907 – could be kept in order to retain the historic first and second floor facades, but was “not financially viable” as it would add another £3million on to the project costs in addition to ongoing maintenance headaches.

Tom Pike from the developers said the school plans “result in a number of public benefits” including a much-needed new school, redevelopment of a derelict site and help to regenerate the Carr Street end of town.

back of former coop store in Ipswich

The former Co-op store was built in 1907 and will now be bulldozed - Credit: Jason Noble

The two-storey school will also feature a rooftop multi-use games area and outdoor teaching space, and 21 new trees will be planted.

John Norman, of the Ipswich Society, said: “We have no objection to a school on this site – in fact we welcome it – and would expect it to make a substantial impact to the regeneration of the eastern end of the town centre,” but he raised objections to the demolition of the original buildings.

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He said the old garden centre and Cox Lane part of the site could be used without needing to knock down the locally listed buildings, and added: “If we knock these buildings down they are lost forever.”

Councillors have imposed a condition that the prominent mosaic above the Cox Lane walkway to Carr Street is retained and re-homed, and consideration of no vehicle idling in the area.

mosaic over walkway in carr street

The historic mosaic above the walk way leading to Carr Street will be retained and relocated, councillors at Ipswich have said - Credit: Jason Noble

Approval is delegated to the head of planning once the final highways access matters are ironed out with Suffolk County Council.

Cllr Bryony Rudkin described it as a “Trigger’s broom” of a building given the multiple changes made in the 1950s and 60s and added: “It’s really important to keep the history and memories but sentimentality shouldn’t keep us from building a school. I think this is a really interesting and creative interpretation of what an urban school should look like.”

Cllr Adam Rae said: “I think it’s very regrettable we are losing the nice parts of the frontage of the Co-op site but for me the overriding thing is the creation of the new school and that to me is more important.”

However, some outstanding concerns remained.

Cllr Bob Hall said he feared school drop offs would add to traffic at peak times on an already-busy road, as well as compromise childrens’ safety, while Cllr Ian Fisher said: “I fail to see the point of a local list if we are not going to uphold it."

The local list is a catalogue of buildings deemed important to the town, and requires additional consideration before any changes are approved, however it does not carry the weight of graded listed buildings.

The council’s own Conservation and Design Panel said: “If these buildings and their notable facades cannot be used to accommodate various school requirements, the panel recommends that they should be retained and converted to some appropriate use, such as residential or commercial uses.”

It is not yet clear when work will begin, but a construction management plan must also be approved in conjunction with nearby businesses.