Every little helps with this empty town site

Demolition work at Grafton Way, Ipswich

Demolition work at Grafton Way, Ipswich

In a rare moment of unity, Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere have agreed that Tesco’s decision to pull out of the Grafton Way development is a blow for the town.

I’m not sure I agree. I’m with Paul Clement who sees this as an opportunity to prioritise the town centre on a north-south axis and to create a natural link between the heart of the shopping area with the Waterfront.

If this can happen over the next few years, it could make the heart of Ipswich a real magnet for visitors as well as being much better for local people.

But one of the concerns that has already been raised is: “What will happen to the Grafton Way site if it is not developed? We don’t need more empty building sites!”

Actually I’d like to query the notion that an undeveloped site is an empty site.

The former B&Q store has been demolished. The land is now empty – but is it not possible to turn a site like this into a community asset in the short to medium term?

Realistically it isn’t going to be developed for years, if not decades – although the principle of development was accepted by the borough in 2010.

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Would it not be possible to put a bulldozer and rotavator on the site for a couple of days and then lay turf to create an open urban park for the years until it is ready to be developed?

Surely this would be cheaper than maintaining fences and paying security staff to patrol the area – an occasional visit from a grass cutter would be all that is needed to keep it in order. That way there would be a civic amenity until the day the economy is booming so much and all the other Waterfront sites are developed that the site suddenly becomes a viable development prospect.

I know it would not bring Tesco the riches it foresaw half a decade ago, but it must be a better prospect than just leaving it looking a mess – and if the company is serious about wanting to be good for the town isn’t it a small price worth paying?

After all, every little helps!