Ipswich Borough Council to take another look at Cornhill vision following public views on design idea

The artist's impression of what the Cornhill could look like which has split those who took part in

The artist's impression of what the Cornhill could look like which has split those who took part in the survery. - Credit: Archant

A leading councillor has vowed to listen to people’s views on one of Ipswich’s biggest redevelopments as he reveals there is likely be a rethink on the Cornhill’s new design.

Sir Stuart Rose, who said the Cornhill was the most depressing place he had ever seen.

Sir Stuart Rose, who said the Cornhill was the most depressing place he had ever seen. - Credit: Archant

A drawing of the new-look town centre went to consultation earlier this year but according to Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere there were aspects of the blueprint the public did not like.

“We are reviewing the consultation responses and I think it’s probably likely as result of that we won’t go forward with exactly the scheme that we went out to consultation on,” Mr Ellesmere said.

“We are going through the comments and there were a number of different aspects to it, some bits people liked and some they didn’t, so we will review all of that.”

The news comes almost four years to the day that top businessman Sir Stuart Rose outlined what he saw as major problems in Ipswich – labelling the town centre and Cornhill as a “barren wasteland” and “the most depressing place I have ever seen”.

Sir Stuart highlighted three key areas that needed improvement in Ipswich in order for it to prosper,

n the appearance of the railway station;

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n the links between the Waterfront and the town centre;

n and the state of the Cornhill area.

Mr Ellesmere said: “I think that many people thought he had gone a little bit over the top but he probably did galvanise us, sting us into life.

“When we speak to people they can notice that things are happening, nobody is saying it is perfect yet but I think everybody can see there are improvements and we are moving in the right direction.”

The original plans would have seen much of the new-look Cornhill levelled, with easy access into the main entrance of the Town Hall. The new space created should encourage pavement cafes and provide a more attractive heart for the town.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said Sir Stuart’s harsh words had been a “wake-up call” and instigated some much-needed change in the town.

Today work has started on a £1million overhaul of Ipswich train station, the Buttermarket is completely transformed with new bars and restaurants, Sailmakers shopping centre is refreshed, and big names including Jacks Wills and Pandora are on the high street.

Mr Gummer said this was a “genuinely exciting time” for the town, but the future will be even brighter.

He added: “I hope the people who are understandably sceptical about promises being delivered in Ipswich will begin to see that this time it’s different.

“Ipswich has got used to saying ‘those sort of things don’t happen in our town’ and the best days are behind us, and there has been a genuine change. I think there are enough people now who think, with some effort, the best days can be ahead of us.”

Other key developments include Ipswich Borough Council’s purchase of the former Malthouse nightclub and music venue, which Mr Ellesmere said the authority was close to finding a tenant for, and the near-completed refurbishment of Fisons House.

Law firm Birketts is in the process of creating a £12million headquarters in Princes Street, and next month Archant, publishers of the Ipswich Star, will move to its new offices in Portman House to make way for retirement homes at its current base in Lower Brook Street.

Improvement work is already under way on land from Stoke Bridge to Dance East at the Waterfront, and the borough council is moving ahead with its rebuild of Crown Street car park.

And what will Ipswich look like in another four years’ time?

Mr Gummer said many of the town’s derelict buildings would be dealt with, half-finished projects including the infamous Winerack would be completed, work would have started on the River Orwell crossings, and the land between the town centre and the Waterfront would be redeveloped.

Town leaders are pleased with Ipswich’s progress, but do people on the streets agree?

It was a mixed bag of responses from people in the town centre yesterday, but many could feel an improvement.

Daniel Greenwood, 24, moved to Ipswich from Manchester one year ago.

He said: “I think it’s lovely. I used to live in Manchester and here it’s quite slow-paced but greener, nicer and less crowded.

“There are less bars and places to eat but as far as shops go it’s the same as Manchester, there may be more specialist shops in Manchester but the high street is the same.”

However, Mr Greenwood said he would like to see more music venues and better transport links.

Ipswich resident Tony Clarke, 68, said the town was great in many ways, but the offering of shops in the high street was a big downfall.

He said: “I think it does pretty well considering all the cuts from central Government.

“We have still got an excellent bus service, the sports centres and swimming pools are still excellent, (and) all of our libraries are still open, which people don’t realise but if you go to other towns you notice it.”

When asked how Ipswich could improve, Mr Clarke said: “I suppose trying to get some of the big-name shops back into the high street, that’s probably the worst thing at the moment.

“They are all leaving the high street and we are getting pound shops opening up where they were.”

Emma Cox, 47, moved to Ipswich from the Colchester area a year ago, and she said she absolutely loved it here.

She said: “It’s urban, there is lots of stuff going on but it’s not like London, that’s a nightmare.

“It’s got lovely country parks, arts, music, two good cinemas – Ipswich Film Theatre is great because I love world cinema and independent cinema and it’s really reasonably priced.

“There are great public swimming pools, a lovely historic centre, lots of international food shops, it’s multicultural and friendly.”

The only criticism Ms Cox had of Ipswich was the links between the town centre and Waterfront, saying visitors would benefit from more signs that help direct them to the marina.

Ipswich born-and-bred Bethany Keeble, 24, said: “One thing I would change is that horrible Winerack, it is such an eyesore, and the one with the Octopus on it, it’s so ugly – you could put something really nice there.

“When you come off the train your first impression is ‘eugh’. There are so many empty buildings.”

Miss Keeble also said the offering of shops and nightlife in the town centre could be improved, but she praised the public green spaces, especially Holywells Park and Christchurch Park.

Sue Marner, 70, who was visiting Ipswich with friend Brenda Grimer, 72, both from Hertfordshire, said that she wanted to see more shops open on a Sunday.

She added: “We came for a trip down Memory Lane because we used to come here a lot but we haven’t been for around 10 years.

“It’s surprising how many shops are shut up and it’s surprising how many shops are closed on a Sunday. Where we live everything opens on a Sunday.

“It’s about the same as 10 years ago. It’s still busy, there is hustle and bustle – it’s a nice place to visit.

“It’s just a normal town, I don’t know if there is anything outstanding that people would come to look at.”

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