Ipswich: Save our town’s historic buildings

IPSWICH: Save Ipswich’s historic jewels!

That was the call today from key figures in the town – under the Star’s I Love Ipswich Beacon Town banner – amid concerns that many of our oldest and most attractive buildings remain unoccupied.

Visitors to the town could be forgiven for missing much of Ipswich’s rich historic past – its beautiful medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture is dotted throughout our streets.

Yet many are no longer in use.

The County Hall in St Helen’s Street (dating back to the early 19th century), the former Co-op store in Carr Street, the old Martin and Newby store in Fore Street and the former Bar Fontaine in St Margaret’s Street are just some of the structures which desperately require a new lease of life.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the key to returning the attractive architecture to use – and its former glory – was to attract outside investment.

“One of the frustrating things is our building heritage is among the most fantastic in the country.

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“Our town centre is very beautiful and we have one of the best medieval centres. But is has been absolutely abused over the years.

“Much of the town is derelict, the street scene does not look good and we have too many empty shops.

“We all need to pull together – the councils, the Business Improvement District, retailers and local businesses, and with some imagination and determination, we can turn it around.

“I know the Giles Circus development was controversial at the time but it is wonderful for that part of the town. It attracted Waitrose, which brought jobs.”

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, agreed, adding: “Some of these are iconic buildings for the town. County Hall is not only very striking but also there is a huge amount of history associated with it.

“It would help to give us a sense of pride in our past if we could show we cared for these buildings by bringing them back into use.”

Mike Cook, from the Ipswich Society, said the organisation would be “delighted” if the town’s historic buildings were rescued.

Meanwhile, David Kindred, former picture editor of the Star and a local history expert, added: “If we invest in the past, it would be better for the future.”

Celia Hodson, chief executive of Eastern Enterprise Hub said: “Having a creative vision for our wonderful town centre and historic Waterfront is so important as it serves to create a great sense of place, boosting pride and confidence in the town – so important for business investment and growth.”

n How do you think Ipswich can restore its historic past? Write to Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

n Ipswich bids for �1million helping hand – page 21