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Watch: Can the reopening of shops be the first step in the rebirth of town centres?

PUBLISHED: 16:12 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:12 09 June 2020

Will the crowds return to the town centre next week?  Picture: Brad Jones

Will the crowds return to the town centre next week? Picture: Brad Jones

Archant

Town centre bosses in Ipswich are looking for a “social contract” with shoppers to ensure everything is as safe as possible when many stores reopen for the first time after the lockdown next week.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement told our latest Open House Forum that while there would be signs and stickers across the town urging shoppers to “keep left” when the town centre starts to reopen on Monday, there would be no physical barriers or fines for people who ignored the notices.

He said: “This is about saying ‘we want to open the town centre safely. We want you, the customer, to come back and act in a safe and proper way for yourself and for others’ and together we’re going to get this thing done in the right way.”

Mr Clement said most stores in the town centre would be reopening on Monday – but things would be different and there could be queues at some places.

MORE: Shoppers say they want to go back to town

Retailer Cathy Frost said the lockdown had encouraged her to go online as well as running her shop Loveone in the Saints. During the lockdown she had looked at the website and looked at how she ran things: “I have found this dormant period quite productive because I’ve given my business a really good overhaul.”

She said shopping was changing before the lockdown anyway – but people are sociable animals and like to get together.

Ipswich council portfolio holder for the town centre Sarah Barber said the changes could accelerate moves to get more homes created in the heart of Ipswich – along with other facilities like schools and medical centres.

She also said that some retailers would probably change their hours so they opened later – giving people the opportunity to come into town after the end of the working day.

Mr Clement warned that the measures that needed to be taken to get the town centre restarted after the lockdown should not be confused with the long-term measures needed to ensure the success of the area in the years ahead.

He said the town centre could not rely solely on retail in the years ahead – 4,000 more people needed to be living in the town centre.

He added: “We need to be looking at increasing the number of skilled jobs in the town centre and if someone decides to work at home two days a week and in the office on three days a week then both will be in the same space.”


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