What next for the town centre? Have your say on how £3m pot should be spent
PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:12 10 January 2019
The public is being asked for its views on what should be the next part of central Ipswich to get a facelift now that work on the Cornhill has finished.
Ipswich Council has a £3m pot of money to improve part of the town centre over the next few years – and has drawn up a shortlist of four possible sites for work to start.
It hopes that eventually all these – and then more – will be improved, but it wants to know what people want to see improved first. It is also giving people the opportunity to nominate an area of the town centre that they feel needs attention.
Council leader David Ellesmere said: “We have identified several public spaces in Ipswich that are looking tired and in need of investment.
“We cannot do everything but we have a £3 million fund to make further improvements to our town centre and surrounding area.
“During the Cornhill project, people told us they wanted to see other parts of the town centre given a new look and this is their opportunity to help shape the future of these public spaces.
“It is vital Ipswich keeps improving to support existing businesses, attract new ones and to provide a town centre that residents can be proud of and that visitors want to come to.”
Ipswich Society chairman John Norman backed plans to improve the town centre – and agreed that the borough’s shortlist did focus on sites badly needing attention.
He said: “Arras Square is badly in need of attention and there needs to be thinning of the trees – one needs to be removed outside the old BHS and the yew trees by the church need to be managed better.
“But there is also work needed elsewhere in the town. The Lloyds Avenue proposal is very interesting – it would help to create a new pedestrianised area at the bottom of the avenue where it is flat without disrupting the taxis.
“And while something does need to be done at Major’s Corner to integrate the Regent with Carr Street, it is difficult to see how it can be improved significantly with a very busy road through the middle of it – that’s the old Ipswich story all over the town centre.”
Mr Norman said proposals to improve Princes Street Bridge should be a fairly simple project to complete – focussing on replacing Victorian parapet lights that had originally been a feature of it.
To have your say visit the The Ipswich council website or fill in a survey form available from council offices and send it to the address printed on it.
Where is the money coming from? Why the public consultation?
Ipswich council is funding the £3m “public realm” improvement from its own resources – its capital reserves, which are used to improve or repair council structures (which include pavements, pedestrian areas, and squares).
After the work to improve the Cornhill was completed, it has become clear that other areas of the town centre are looking run-down and need some improvement so the borough has decided to look at schemes to try to make it generally more attractive.
After the Cornhill work started, there was concern among some people that they felt they had not been adequately consulted (although there had been several different phases of public involvement) so the borough was determined to talk to people as early as possible this time round.
They hope to get responses by early March and to make a decision about which projects should be first to go ahead during the spring.
OPTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT:
Arras Square was created and renamed in 1992 after the Buttermarket Centre was opened and includes St Stephen’s Church, which is now the town’s Tourist Information Centre.
Over the last 26 years the square has deteriorated through neglect. When the paving has been damaged by utilities or wear and tear it has not been replaced – but filled in with blotches of bitumen.
Too many trees were planted so as they grow larger their roots compete with each other and look for the surface, damaging the paving further.
And the ancient yew trees near the church have burst out of their planters and create dark areas that are very unattractive for people to visit.
Arras Square needs to be repaved, to have some of its trees removed to open it up and new traffic restrictions to prevent illegal access beyond the loading bays for Sainsbury and Wilkinson stores.
Cornhill – Lloyds Avenue
The council is looking at extending the Cornhill paving along the bottom 35 metres of Lloyds Avenue, as far as the turning point for taxis which use the rank outside the Mecca club.
As well as being an extension for the Cornhill, the borough hopes it would also encourage Debenhams to re-open its entrances on to this street to create an area that might attract street cafes during the summer.
It has also been mentioned as a possible new home for a Christmas craft market which could retain an entrance on to the Cornhill – but without blocking the central square or obscuring the Christmas Tree.
Unlike the rest of Lloyds Avenue the bottom section is flat so there would be few problems in turning this into an attractive urban square.
And by retaining the taxi rank and the turning area, the impact on current users of Lloyds Avenue – which has recently seen the opening of the Three Wise Monkeys pub – should be minimal.
The area at the end of Carr Street near the Regent Theatre, the former Odeon (soon to be Hope Church), and the Woodbridge Road junction has been a bit of a mess for generations despite attempts to improve it.
The fact that one of the busiest roads in Ipswich passes right through the middle of it means that it is always going to be difficult to develop a pedestrian flow between the theatre/church area and the town centre.
Major’s Corner is also the site of the town’s largest stand-alone public conveniences, with their distinctive insect-swatting major sculpture.
The area could certainly do with a bit of tidying up – replacing broken paving and ensuring that the street furniture is fit for purpose – but it is difficult to see how this particular part of the town centre could be radically transformed without completely re-thinking the traffic system. Something which is a county, not borough, council issue.
Princes Street Bridge
The simplest and cheapest improvement to the town centre would be improvements to the Princes Street bridge over the River Orwell outside the railway station.
The borough would not be able to change the carriageway for vehicles – but it could replace the pavements and improve the look of the bridge, possibly by re-installing parapet lights that were a feature when it was opened in the 1920s.
Improving the bridge would be the last piece in the jigsaw of improving the pedestrian access between the town centre and the railway station – and is also aimed at encouraging more rail passengers to walk into town rather than catching a bus or taxi.
It might be possible for the borough to carry out this work alongside another project – the £3m is a pot that it hopes to fund several individual schemes.
Eventually all four should be completed – but which will be first?