Ipswich: Design competition for “stunning” entrance to the Waterfront

No. 4 College Street, Ipswich

No. 4 College Street, Ipswich - Credit: Lucy Taylor

The search has started for a “stunning” design of buildings to transform the entrance to Ipswich Waterfront.

The borough is to buy the two sites near Stoke Bridge – the land previously occupied by St Peter’s Warehouse which burned down in 2000 and the former Paul’s silo next to it.

Now it is about to launch a design competition in a bid to find a new use for the site, including shops, restaurants and flats.

The move received unanimous backing from the borough’s executive this week. Now the council will open negotiations with the landowners to buy the sites – but if these are unsuccessful it will apply for a compulsory purchase order to allow the work to get under way.

Council leader David Ellesmere said: “We want a stunning development there to provide a worthy entrance to the Waterfront opposite the historic St Peter’s Church.

“The homes will all be for sale, the cost of developing the site means it is uneconomic to build social housing there, but we want to ensure the building will be a real statement for the town.”

Any redevelopment will have to retain the near-derelict lodge at the junction of College Street and Bridge Street – and this will be incorporated into the new entrance, possibly as a Waterfront Visitor Centre showing people what there is to see in the area.

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At this stage the proposed redevelopment does not include the former Burton’s building facing the River Orwell or the derelict buildings beside the Jerwood Dancehouse.

However the borough hopes that the once the planning for this work gets under way, it will encourage the owners of those other sites to either sell or re-develop them to create a larger scheme.

The redevelopment proposals were welcomed by Ipswich Society chairman John Norman, although he was disappointed that the former Burtons buildings were not included.

He said: “We do need something there and I am delighted that the council is taking this pro-active approach. It would be very disappointing if nothing happens to that third building because frankly it is the worst of the lot!

“The building on the corner, Number 4 College Street, dates from about 1700 and deserves to have a new use. It will be good to include that in the redevelopment proposal.”

Mr Norman doubted whether the site would be attractive to bars or restaurants because it is not directly next to the water.

However it could prove popular for a food store or other retailer – or for a creche operator keen to offer services to owners of flats in the area.

If the council succeeds in negotiating with the current owners of the sites it is hoped the work should be able to start before the end of next year.

If it has to go through a compulsory purchase order, it is unlikely that work to redevelop the sites would be able to start before the middle of 2016.