Ipswich Borough Council bids to buy back former HQ site in Civic Drive and the underground spiral car park

Former Civic Centre site in Ipswich

Former Civic Centre site in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Ipswich council is waiting to hear whether it has been successful in a bid to buy back the site of its former headquarters on Civic Drive.

However this could put it on a crash course with Ipswich Central over the future of retailing in the heart of the town.

The authority has put in a bid to buy the Westgate Centre, including the underground spiral car park and the site of the former Civic Centre council offices.

It sold this land to property company Turnstone Estates in 2007, but soon afterwards the recession hit and the company had not been able to put together a development for the site.

The Civic Centre itself was demolished in 2009.

The borough already owns two significant properties next to the site – the former police station and the former Crown Court building.

The closing date for bids for the site was last Thursday, and now officials and senior councillors are anxiously waiting to hear whether the bid has succeeded.

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Council leader David Ellesmere said: “We are now waiting to hear what the result of the bid was. Whatever happens and whoever is successful, the council will have a major say because of the two buildings we already own there.”

Mr Ellesmere refused to discuss the amount that the council had bid for the site at this stage – although there is a widespread belief among property managers in the town that this would be considerably less than the borough received for the site in 2007.

He said that if the council was successful, it would look at promoting a retail-led development at the site.

“The DTZ report (into the future of town centre retailing) said there was a need for more ‘big box’ retail units in Ipswich and said the Westgate Centre was the place they should be provided.”

However Ipswich Central Chief Executive Paul Clement said any development on the site should be residential-led and any new retail units should be small in comparison.

The town centre management BID company is promoting a shift of the town centre to a north-south axis from Tower Ramparts to the Waterfront.

Mr Clement said: “We would not see anything that will drag major retail development out of this part of the town centre, so it is very important that any development on the Westgate Centre is retail-led.”