Huge regeneration bid for Suffolk town

A MARKET town is to receive a £10million transformation as a church, shops and homes face compulsory purchase and demolition to make way for a new retail area.

John Howard

A MARKET town is to receive a £10million transformation as a church, shops and homes face compulsory purchase and demolition to make way for a new retail area.

The move by Mid Suffolk District Council would see about 13 businesses, plus the old post office and sorting office and the large 1950s United Reformed Church on the west side of Ipswich Street in Stowmarket taken down by a developer.

Among the businesses set to go are the Halifax and a number of independent retailers, charity shops and take-aways housed in 1960s style buildings.

In there place a new retail area would rise from the rubble within the Conservation Area in a Georgian style with both large and independent shops, restaurants, cafes and new apartments.

The move - expected to cost between £5m and £10m and to stretch along 140 metres of the street - is almost certain to trigger a public inquiry, but council officers nevertheless expect work to be able to start on site by 2011 and to be completed in two years.

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Dave Benham, regeneration and community services officer with the authority, said: “The administration sees Stowmarket as a priority and this is the way forward.

“We should have a bustling market town and not stop at 5pm when everyone goes home. We want a café culture.

“This is positive for Stowmarket. The town has become dormant and the centre is not fit for purpose. The only way the town will become fit for purpose will be if we undertake a fundamental redevelopment.”

The council will now seek the power to issue compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) should anyone not wish to sell and appoint a developer who will fund the scheme.

The details of what the new buildings will look like are still being finalised but are expected to be Georgian in style.

A spokesman for the United Reformed Church said: “Members of Stowmarket URC are shocked to hear a compulsory purchase order has been slapped on their premises.

“Although they have been aware of plans to regenerate part of Ipswich Street through the consultation process employed by the council, the current plans have come as a major surprise to them.

“The members are convinced that the church has a significant and special role to play in the Stowmarket community, and this involves maintaining a strong presence on a prime site at the heart of the town centre.

“They are looking forward to working constructively with the authority for a satisfactory outcome for the town and the church.”

Keith Elliott, branch manager of East Anglian Mortgages based directly opposite the redevelopment, said: “This is a good idea, the population of Stowmarket is growing with new housing estates.

“But at the moment it is still a poor relation and I think this would be excellent.”

A public meeting, called by the district council, is being held on Thursday at the United Reformed Church in the town centre from 6pm to discuss the plans.

What do you think of the plans? Are you affected? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, e-mail or call the newsdesk on 01473 324788

RADICAL plans to transform Ipswich Street in Stowmarket are a key step forward in regenerating the town, a Tory chief said today.

Tim Passmore, Conservative leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “This completely underlines this administration's commitment to regenerating Stowmarket.

“In a difficult economic time we are pressing ahead with this, it has to be sorted out. We want to get on with it and are delighted with the reaction from businesses and the public.

“We want a town that we can all be proud for the next 100 years. We need very good quality homes but we need economic development.

“We have never done this as a council before, as far as I am aware. The reason for going for compulsory purchase is so that we can move it forward, and do not have to delay.

“This will be a real boost for the town. Stowmarket is strategically in a very good location, on a railway line to London and the A14, with this sort of development the community has a wonderful future.”