Ipswich town centre gears up for 2017 with new pedestrian links and final preparations to Empire Cinema in Buttermarket

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre on January 2, 2017.

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre on January 2, 2017. - Credit: Archant

As people return to work today after the long Christmas/New Year holiday, town centre businesses will be reflecting on busy festive period – and preparing for the lean months to come.

The early months of the year are traditionally a challenging time on the High Street as potential customers pull their horns in after the Christmas excesses.

Temporary shops close their doors leaving gaps in shopping centres. Sales which used to dominate January now tend to fizzle out within the first few days of the month because shoppers rushed out in the days immediately after Christmas to grab the best bargains.

And the cold weather is often enough to persuade shoppers to stay at home.

Yesterday’s fine weather was welcomed by some town centre shoppers across the region – but the numbers in Ipswich town centre were significantly down on those seen over the last week.

While the next few months are not expected to be the busiest in Ipswich shops and restaurants, there are some significant developments on the way.

Work to pedestrianise Queen Street is due to start within days and continue until Easter. This will turn the road into a much more attractive area for shoppers – and will include facilities for market stalls.

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It will also complete the pedestrian link from the town centre, along St Nicholas’ Street and St Peter’s Street to the Waterfront.

The second major development in the town centre will be the opening of the Empire Cinema in the Buttermarket Centre in February.

The cinema has been actively recruiting staff for some time and its opening will bring life to the first floor of the centre which has been transformed over the last 18 months.

The 12-screen cinema will have 45 employees and will be the anchor tenant of the Buttermarket, using the area that has been converted from the former department store in the centre.

The next few months could also see moves accelerate towards redeveloping the Cornhill and finding new tenants for some of the empty shops in the town centre.

Revised plans for the Cornhill are still being worked on – but should be ready for public scrutiny before the spring arrives.

And it is understood that there is some interest in the former BHS unit in the Butter Market Street that has been empty since the national chain collapsed in the middle of last year.

The future of the former Post Office building and Grimwades store is unlikely to become clear until details of the new look for the Cornhill are published.

Work on that project is still planned to start this time next year in a bid to get it completed by Christmas 2018.

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