Does Ipswich Debenhams building have a future after sale?

Debenhams in Ipswich

Should the Debenhams store on Ipswich Cornhill be demolished and the site redeveloped? - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The Debenhams building in the heart of Ipswich has been sold as it was confirmed the store would close its doors for the last time on May 4.

The identity of the buyer remains a mystery - but one leading developer in the town, who is not involved in the purchase, said it would be best to demolish the 1970s building and redevelop the site from scratch for housing.

Ipswich Council had hoped to buy the building to redevelop it with a smaller Debenhams store and other uses for some of the other floors - but the collapse of the retailer and a survey which showed serious electrical and plumbing issues with the building forced a rethink.

It is understood the purchaser agreed to pay a price nearer to the council's original £4m bid than it was prepared to offer.

But Ipswich property developer John Howard said he did not think the state of the building should be a factor: "I think the whole thing should just be pulled down and the site cleared for high-quality new homes.

"It's just not fit for any other purpose. But clear the site and you could create a good residential area there - linked into Lloyds Arch and close Lloyds Avenue, plant a few trees there and make it a really nice area."

Shoppers queueing up Lloyds Avenue

John Howard suggested Lloyds Avenue should be closed to traffic and turned into a green area with housing on the site of the Debenhams store. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

He hoped the council would talk to the new owners soon about reinventing that part of the town centre: "You don't need to have mixed use - there are enough empty shops in the town already. Just turn it into a high-quality residential area."

Debenhams revealed that all its stores would close by May 15 with Ipswich being one of the first to shut because the sale is due to be completed early in May and the new owners want vacant possession.

Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Chelmsford and Norwich Debenhams branches will all close between May 4 and 15.

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Ipswich councillor Colin Kreidewolf, who is responsible for the borough's property, said that the new owner of the building is likely to need borough support for any redevelopment of the site - and hoped there could be an early meeting to find out what the plans were.

Meanwhile, Debenhams administrators said the closing down sale had been so successful in Ipswich that the amount of stock left was falling fast - which was also a factor in the decision that it should be one of the first stores to close its doors.

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