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Should repairs to Arras Square in Ipswich wait for new investment?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:24 05 March 2019

Paving at Arras Square. Ipswich Central wants to delay repairs until BHS is occupied. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Paving at Arras Square. Ipswich Central wants to delay repairs until BHS is occupied. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

Proposals to upgrade Arras Square in Ipswich could be put on hold until the town’s former BHS store is redeveloped – according to the group which represents town centre businesses.

Ipswich council is keen to improve Arras Square outside the new-look Buttermarket Centre. Picture: PAUL GEATERIpswich council is keen to improve Arras Square outside the new-look Buttermarket Centre. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Ipswich council asked people to say which of four options was their favourite for the first improvement work after putting aside £3million to improve different parts of the town centre over the next few years.

This newspaper also ran an online vote at the same time.

This showed Arras Square was the clear favourite among those who took part – and although the borough is still analysing the results of its survey, it is understood that its results are not radically different.

However Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter has issued a statement saying Arras Square should only be improved and have its broken paving replaced when three conditions are met.

“This could become a viable second public square (to Cornhill) but should only be undertaken when (a) traffic issues (eg deliveries, illegal parking etc) can be overcome, (b) a management regime is in place for the area, including a funded enlivenment programme, and (c) the investment is combined with redevelopment of the former BHS store to include active frontage to the square.”

BHS closed nearly three years ago and there is currently no known interest from anyone in taking on the large store – which would mean if Ipswich Central’s conditions were met, there could be an indefinite delay in repairing the area outside the recently-refurbished Buttermarket Centre.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said: “The council’s investment in Arras Square should be used to try to encourage the redevelopment of the BHS site, and I think that is possible.

“There is a need to improve the public realm in the town centre, but that must be used to encourage more private sector investment in Ipswich and really make a difference.”

In the mean time, improving Lloyds Avenue and using that to encourage Debenhams to reopen its doors on to that refurbished street could be a better immediate use of council investment.

A spokesman for the borough said they did not want to comment on the results of the public consultation until they had been analysed and they could discuss the next steps.

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