Ipswich: Town suffers from double vision as borough looks at traditional street layout

Ipwich Cornhill

Ipwich Cornhill

Just weeks after a bold vision to change the town centre axis was presented to the business community, the borough’s local plan has backed a rival proposal – to develop retailing to the west of the town centre.

That appears to leave Ipswich Central’s vision of uniting the town centre and Waterfront into a single retail “offer” in limbo.

The local plan core strategy revision looks at how the borough should develop over the next 18 years – until 2031.

It recommends that major new retail development should be concentrated on the Westgate area of the town, on the site of the former Civic Centre building.

That site on the western edge of the town centre is well away from the north/south axis being promoted by Ipswich Central with the retail heart of the town running from the Tower Ramparts shopping centre and Cornhill to the Waterfront.

Paul Clement from Ipswich Central said he was still studying the 180-page report and did not want to make a formal comment until he had discussed the report with other businesses.

There are references in the local plan to Ipswich Central’s Masterplan, however it is not easy to see how the two visions can be reconciled.

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Senior Ipswich councillor Peter Gardiner helped draw up the report and said one of the key requirements for the town going into the future was for more “medium to large” shop units.

“These need to be in new developments – existing units like Grimwades’s building or the Croydon’s building don’t fit in with what retailers want now. That’s why you’re seeing units being knocked together in Tower Ramparts for River Island.

“The only place where there is enough space for such new units is the Westgate area.”

Both the borough and Ipswich Central want to see the area that has been called the Mint Quarter turned into a mixed-use development with limited retail use.

However Ipswich Central believes new large units could be built on Upper Brook Street and in an extension to Tower Ramparts – allowing the north/south link to be developed.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer was not happy about the borough’s proposal: “I really do wonder what they are doing – Ipswich Central produced an independent report aimed at turning the town centre around.

“It was welcomed by the business community as a good way to go ahead in the future – and now this plan comes out which looks at going back to the current layout. This is really disappointing.”