Ipswich: How is town centre faring two years after Sir Stuart Rose’s “depressing town” speech?

Paul Clement of Ipswich Central with Sir Stuart Rose
EADT 15.9.12
ES 17.9.12

Paul Clement of Ipswich Central with Sir Stuart Rose EADT 15.9.12 ES 17.9.12 - Credit: PAGEPIX LTD

To a casual visitor, Ipswich town centre has not changed a great deal in the two years since Sir Stuart Rose described the place in deeply unflattering terms.

The former Grimwades (and Clinton Cards) store that is seen as the jewel in the crown is still waiting for a permanent tenant.

Croydons’ store is still shut – and there is still a regular “churn” of stores along the golden mile.

Things are looking better on the St Peter’s Street/St Nicholas Street route between the Waterfront and the town centre – but Queen Street is still waiting to be pedestrianised.

There have been some changes. The former Littlewoods store in Tower Ramparts has been split and turned into new stores for Iceland and Poundland – but these are not as a magnet to attract affluent shoppers from rural Suffolk.

However things are changing – and civic leaders are confident that over the next few months the town centre will see a real boost.

Queen Street and the top of Princes Street is due to be fully pedestrianised next year. When completed that should allow the market to expand in this area.

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And at the same time Tower Ramparts is to be given a total facelift in a multi-million pound scheme that should also attract new retailers to the rebranded “Sailmakers” development.

By this time next year, the future of the Cornhill should be clearer – hopefully the funding should all have been agreed and work should be planned. Ipswich Central’s Paul Clement said there had been major changes over the last two years, even if they are not too clear to all visitors.

He said: “In 2012 we were still in the depths of the recession and things were really very tough. Things aren’t great now, but there are signs of recovery.

“The investment in Tower Ramparts will be a major step for the town and once the work at Queen Street is completed that will improve that area and give more space for market stalls when needed.”

But Mr Clement warned the town centre would never return to its previous state.

He said: “Town and city centres across the country have changed and will continue to change – Ipswich is not unique in that. There will be more emphasis on leisure and restaurants than retail, but the town can adapt.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the redevelopment of the Cornhill, after a new design was chosen in a competition among architects, would be a key development for the town centre.

“But there have already been improvements – we have taken back the management of the market and that is doing well.”

And Ipswich MP Ben Gummer also felt the town was improving slowly..

He said: “It is better in the sense that there are one or two more shops however we do need to see more urgency about concentrating development in the heart of the town.”