Ipswich: More than 100 new jobs for town as Waitrose prepares to open two new stores

IPSWICH: After years of searching for a suitable site, supermarket chain Waitrose is taking its first positive steps towards moving to the town.

And it could end up with two stores in Ipswich.

The company wants to build a substantial supermarket – the size of its stores in Saxmundham, Sudbury or Bury St Edmunds – on the Crane site off Nacton Road.

And it could also develop a second, smaller, convenience store in the town centre.

The company is understood to be having talks with the borough council about turning the ground floor of the Corn Exchange into a store – using the Robert Cross Hall and the former Gatsby’s Bar.

Representatives from Waitrose met members of the borough’s planning and development committee yesterday to outline their proposals.

There are no detailed plans yet – representatives are in talks with officials from the borough’s planning department and are hoping to submit a planning application by the end of next month.

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There will then be consultations with local people before it is discussed by the planning committee, probably in the summer.

The site of the former Crane engineering plant has been allocated for “employment” use by the borough council – and the new supermarket would occupy only part of the site.

A spokesman for the borough could not make any further comment about the application, but said that in principle a supermarket would not go against council policy for the site.

Waitrose have been looking for a site in Ipswich for many years.

The company had hoped to build a supermarket in Westerfield Road, but that proposal was rejected by the council more than a decade ago.

Since then it has looked at the possibility of the Civic Centre site in the town centre and there has been speculation it was interested in the site of the Colchester Road fire station.

However while spokesmen for the company have always said it is keen to move to Ipswich, they have never committed themselves to a particular site... until now.

A spokesman for Waitrose told The Evening Star: “We are looking to put up a supermarket on the Crane site.

“Our supermarkets do not tend to be as large as some other companies’ but this one would be a substantial supermarket.”

It would employ well over 100 people – although the exact number would not be settled until they knew how large the store would be.

Everyone working for Waitrose becomes a partner in the John Lewis group.

The Star understands the Nacton Road site could be developed as a “Waitrose Plus” with a department selling household goods from John Lewis as well as groceries.

The company spokesman said Waitrose would also consider opening a convenience store in the town centre.

He added: “We are looking at developing about 30 new convenience stores a year around the country over the next ten years.”

He would not comment on whether it had a site in mind, but said Ipswich was the kind of centre where Waitrose would like to have a presence.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the news was good for the town.

He said: “This is obviously very good news for Ipswich.

“The jobs that would be brought in by Waitrose would be very welcome, and of course everyone working for them becomes a partner in John Lewis.

“And it is an important indication that things are looking up in the town generally for someone like Waitrose to be looking to move in.”

n Will Waitrose be good for Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.