Empty shops to stay until Mint Quarter

IPSWICH will have to endure a string of empty shops in the town centre until a long-awaited £230million shopping development gets the go-ahead, it has been claimed.

IPSWICH will have to endure a string of empty shops in the town centre until a long-awaited £230million shopping development gets the go-ahead, it has been claimed.

The Mint Quarter scheme, destined for the area between Tacket Street and Carr Street, will comprise a department store, 50 shops and car parking for around 900 cars.

The proposed development is flanked by Upper Brook Street and Upper Orwell Street, which currently contain a number of boarded-up and closed shops.

Speaking at a council meeting Richard Atkins, responsible for planning and economic development said the problem of empty shops on the streets has come about partly as a result of the ambitious Mint Quarter development.

Mr Atkins said: “Upper Orwell Street has a high number of vacancies as it is waiting on the Mint Quarter.

“Upper Brook Street is waiting on Shearer Property Group and NCP for the Mint Quarter.

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“Good quality retailers want ten years on a lease and will not consider it worthwhile transferring and fitting out the shop unless they get that.

“If a lease is issued on a longer basis it would effectively be holding the Mint Quarter to ransom.

“We all agree we have been waiting long enough and we don't want to see that protracted.”

Mr Atkins made the statement after being asked at a full meeting of Ipswich Borough Council what the authority is doing to reduce the number of empty shops in Ipswich.

He argued that the situation is not as bad as perceived with the number of business premises in the town increasing by 24 per cent in the space of nine years - from 1,008 in 1997 to 1,248 last year.

He added that Ipswich is 35th on a list of 800 retail destinations in the UK.

Guy Shearer, of Shearer Property Group (SPG), said: “The vacancy rate in Upper Brook Street and Upper Orwell Street is regrettable and this situation has deteriorated since NCP secured a planning consent in 1993 which was not implemented.

“SPG have only recently become involved in the Mint Quarter.

“We are keen to move matters forward as quickly as possible and are working towards trying to secure a department store anchor by the middle of next year.”

Back in May the Star revealed that SPG is keen to sign upmarket department store John Lewis for the development's 40,000 sq ft anchor store.

n. What do you think should be done to combat the problem of empty shops in Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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