Ipswich: Market traders to stand their ground following comments made by former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose

A battle was looming today over the future of the market after retail legend Sir Stuart Rose gave his recipe to boost the town centre.

Speaking at the Star-sponsored Beacon Town conference, the former boss of Marks and Spencer told delegates that the town centre was the most depressing place he had ever seen – and called for the Cornhill to be cleared to create an open piazza.

He offered to transform the heart of the town for �200,000 – an offer seized on by the borough which pledged to work with Sir Stuart to improve Ipswich.

But it is the proposal to move the market that seems set to spark a heated debate, with one market trader claiming that moving the market from the Cornhill would “kill it stone dead”.

Sir Stuart visited the town centre with Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement before Friday afternoon’s conference. Following the visit, Sir Stuart told the Beacon Town delegates: “It is the most depressing place I have ever seen. Standing in the town centre with the empty shops, it is a barren wasteland.”

But he held out hope for the future: “Give me about �200,000 and I could transform it – move the market to Lloyds Avenue and turn it into a wonderful piazza in the heart of the town, maybe with a small fountain as a focal point and space for outdoor cafes and events.”

Mr Clement said it would be criminal to ignore his comments however market traders are expected to put up a fight to stay on the Cornhill.

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Mike Young has run the fish stall for many years and linked up with the Star to spearhead the campaign to move the market ten years ago.

He said: “I am not going to move anywhere else. If the market has to leave the Cornhill it will kill it stone dead.

“We’re glad Sir Stuart came to the town on a market day to see how important it is to Ipswich.

“It’s all very well to talk about moving to create space for cafes – but the space in front of Clinton Cards is not available. It’s used by market stalls.”

Mr Young has spoken to fellow stallholders and they agree it would not be possible to move anywhere else.

“You can’t have a market on a hill like Lloyds Avenue! People come to the town centre because of the market. If we’re thrown off the Cornhill, the town centre will die. It’s not strong already,” he said.

Council leader David Ellesmere said the management of the market was brought back in house to improve it and follow up on the recommendations made by retail guru Mary Portas.

He said trying to improve the Cornhill without damaging the market was a very difficult circle to square.

Mr Ellesmere added: “We are aware that there are people who say the Cornhill should be available for other events – but the market is very important to this town.

“It is important that there should not be any changes that damage the market – that it should only move if there is a better location for it and so far that has not been found.”