Ipswich: Are shoppers being lured away from the traditional town centre and heading east towards Futura Park, Ravenswood and Ransomes Retail park?
That’s the question facing planning officials as they prepare a response to Morrisons application to develop a new food supermarket on the Ransomes retail park.
Morrison’s hopes to develop a new store in half of what is currently the B&Q store at the park. A total of 300 jobs would be created in the supermarket and B&Q would continue to trade from the rest of the site.
If that does go ahead, it would be the fourth supermarket in the area – Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Lidl at Ravenswood are within walking distance of the site.
And other stores, restaurants, cafes, and pubs in the area allow shoppers to buy most items they could need – apart from clothes.
The Morrison’s proposal is due to be discussed by the borough council’s planning and development committee in June.
The growth of the retail in the area has not gone unnoticed in the town centre where officials and businesses are faced with reinventing the historic centre.
Terry Baxter, chairman of Ipswich Central, said: “The development of the eastern side of the town has really accelerated over the last two or three years with the John Lewis/Waitrose site – but this is not something that is unique to Ipswich.
“We have to look at how the town centre can evolve with an emphasis on specialist independent shops, on leisure and other activities, and using our unique selling point – the Waterfront.”
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Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the growth of the eastern retail centre had not come without a cost – people living nearby found that roads were often seriously congested.
Part of the reason for the development of eastern Ipswich was the number of new homes that have been built in the area, mainly just outside the borough at Warren Heath and Purdis Farm in Suffolk Coastal district.
These new homes have been sold to families, many with high disposable incomes, which are attractive to retailers.
The Sainsbury’s/Homebase site at Warren Heath is in Suffolk Coastal – and there is also a substantial retail park at Martlesham Heath.
Ipswich council’s portfolio holder for planning Carole Jones said there was a clear town centre-first policy for major new retail development.
The John Lewis/Waitrose application had been allowed because it allowed the former Crane engineering site to be decontaminated – the rest of the site is due to become a business park for offices and small factory units.
She said the closure of a number of national chains in the wake of the 2008 crash had had a significant effect on town centres – but Ipswich was not unique in this.