Market traders' concerns need to be taken seriously by Ipswich Council
PUBLISHED: 06:14 15 February 2018
In case you've missed my columns of the last few weeks, I'm in favour of the changes that are currently under way at the Cornhill in Ipswich - and I feel many of the critics are misinformed and should have raised their objections years ago.
But I do understand the concern felt by some of the market traders about falling trade – especially the food stalls in Queen Street – and it is clear that the borough council needs to look long and hard at what it can do to ease the problems.
The problem with Queen Street is difficult to solve – but there must be more thought given to making it more accessible to shoppers.
The key issue is that there is not room to have stalls at the top of Queen Street. It has a fairly narrow “throat” that has to be kept clear for emergency vehicles’ access.
But the signs for the food court at Giles’ Circus are poor. The overwhelming message you get when looking at them is that the road is closed. The food court’s presence appears to be an afterthought.
And on quieter market days – Tuesdays and Thursdays – there are few stalls around Giles Circus itself. That would help to drag people down to Queen Street.
The obvious stall to put there to be a magnet for that part of the market is the Coffeelink van – but I can see that doing that would cause a certain irritation to one of the major units facing on to Giles’ Circus, Costa.
Having said that I’m not sure the two businesses are really head to head in competition. Why do people go to Costa?
Is it to drink a cup of coffee? Or is it to meet friends or sit down for a while and read the paper or hook up their tablet to the internet over a coffee while on a visit to the town centre?
What is clearly needed if there is to be a successful food court at Queen Street is much more publicity actually on the ground.
It’s great that the borough brought forward its “Love your local market” campaign to try to attract more people – but it really has to do more if the traders are not going to start drifting away in droves.
And frankly issuing a terse statement that it will “take all necessary steps to resolve this matter” when a trader moves back to its original site in protest at losing more than 60% of takings over the last fortnight doesn’t do much to convince traders that their interests are top of the council’s agenda!
Long-established stalls have told me they are losing money seriously because no one goes down Queen Street, with many of their customers apparently unaware that they are there.
I can see that Queen Street could be a good place for a market food court once spring arrives and the idea of sitting outside while eating a bacon buttie becomes attractive.
But on a cold day in February sitting out there isn’t particularly appealing – and there must be a real danger that by the time spring arrives they will all have found different markets to go to.
Something needs to be done quickly if that part of the market is to still be in existence by the time the better weather arrives.
Suffolk station deserves a new start
I was very sorry to see Saxmundham station on the East Suffolk line suffering serious fire damage on Monday morning.
Although I’ve lived in Ipswich for more than 30 years, I was brought up near Sax(as we always called it) – and the station became very familiar to me, taking me to football matches at Portman Road, days out to London, and trips to and from university.
The station has had a variety of uses since it ceased to be “staffed” as part of the Beeching cuts which saw the closure of the Aldeburgh branch – but its distinctive railway architecture has always remained intact and as I’ve passed through it in recent years I’ve felt it deserved to have a good use like fellow stations at Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Halesworth and Beccles.
So it is particularly sad that this fire happened just as it was about to be converted into an arts centre for the town which could create a real buzz around the station.
I hope that this work is able to be completed and that the station can be restored to become a fine landmark near the heart of Saxmundham again.
It provides a vital rail link for a significant number of communities in east Suffolk – it’s the rail station for Leiston, Aldeburgh, Framlingham and many villages in between.
I look forward to visiting the new centre in its restored station building at some point in the not-too-distant future.