New Ipswich town centre homes could be smaller and more densely built

A quiet Cornhill in Ipswich on Boxing Day as Suffolk enters into Tier 4. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich's future could mean more homes in the town centre - but they would be smaller and more densely built, experts have said - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

New homes at the heart of Ipswich town centre's revival after the Covid crisis could be smaller and more densely built than housing in the town's suburbs, a conference has revealed.

However, experts believe the smaller homes could be attractive to those looking for a simple urban lifestyle - and that retail stores still have a role in Ipswich's future, despite the growth of online shopping.

Many people are reportedly seeking larger homes in more rural areas after the experience of living in lockdown.

But at its Reviving Our Town and City Centres conference on Tuesday, Ipswich Central business improvement district backed a bold vision to improve links between different parts of the town.

Ipswich Waterfront

Flats in areas like the Waterfront are increasingly popular, but the conference heard that town centre homes will be built more densely than those in suburban estates. - Credit: Paul Geater

The plan "commits to many more people living centrally and having around them all that they will need to live their lives locally".

The guiding principle is the concept of a "15-minute city", which says people should be able to live within a 15-minute walk of all the services they need on a daily basis.

Paul Swinney, from The Centre for Cities research group, said it was important to attract more high-quality homes in town and city centres.

Many fellow speakers said building more homes would help to ensure new uses for buildings falling empty as a result of more shopping moving online.

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However, Mr Swinney said planners and potential buyers needed to accept such homes would have to be built more densely than is common in suburbs or on large housing estates.

People choosing to live in the town centre might also not need car parking because all the facilities they need would be on their doorstep, it was said.

Former East of England Co-op boss Minnie Moll, who is now chief executive of the Design Council, said the lockdowns had accelerated a change to online retail.

"Figures show that 46% of people bought things online that they had never bought like that before," she said.

Primark in Ipswich

Minnie Moll said that queues outside stores like Primark this week showed there was a demand for traditional shops. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

However, Ms Moll said the queues seen outside Primark and Debenhams in Ipswich on the first day after lockdown showed that there was an appetite for "real" shops for some products.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement closed the conference by saying: "The town started at the Waterfront, that is why Ipswich was built here.

"The proposals we have put that right at the heart - with the Waterfront, the railway station and one of the finest parks in the country all within 15 minutes of each other."

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