Ipswich Vision group seeks new uses for some of town’s unused gems

Former County Hall, Ipswich. The Vision Partnership hopes to find a new use for it. Picture: ARCHANT

Former County Hall, Ipswich. The Vision Partnership hopes to find a new use for it. Picture: ARCHANT

New uses are being sought for some of the most prominent unused buildings in the town centre as the Ipswich Vision partners prepare to move ahead with the regeneration of the town.

Could the glory days return to the old Post Office building in Ipswich? Picture: DAVID KINDRED COLLE

Could the glory days return to the old Post Office building in Ipswich? Picture: DAVID KINDRED COLLECTION

A task force headed by borough chief executive Russell Williams is looking at ways of finding new uses for some of the most prominent buildings near the town centre.

Among these are the former County Hall in St Helen’s Street that has been unoccupied since Suffolk County Council moved to Endeavour House in 2004.

And the Vision partners are also hoping to ensure a long-term tenant is found for the former Post Office on Ipswich Cornhill – it is understood a major restaurant is interested in the site, but it would require significant work to improve access for visitors with disabilities.

Finding new uses for prominent under-used buildings is just one area of town centre life that the Ipswich Vision partners are considering.

Ipswich Vision chair Terry Hunt.

Ipswich Vision chair Terry Hunt.

They are also looking to improve the town’s “public realm” – the squares, streets, and lanes that make up the central retail area of Ipswich.

One of top candidates for a new look could be Arras Square once work to convert the former BHS store into new restaurants and shops has been completed.

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The Vision partners are also looking at ways of highlighting the town’s cultural heritage, possibly leading to a bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025.

Vision chairman Terry Hunt said: “My personal view is that Ipswich would have a very good chance of becoming city of culture. There are seven Arts Council-funded organisations based in the town which is more than just about anywhere else I know. That would certainly put us on the map.”

Another project the group is looking at is trying to complete the Princes Street commercial corridor. This has seen the construction and refurbishment of many offices including new offices for Archant (publisher of the Ipswich Star and EADT) and law firm Birketts.

But there are still sites waiting to be redeveloped – including the former Drum and Monkey pub that is due to be demolished and garages still occupied on short-term tenancies. These buildings are owned by the borough – and development should start once tenants are signed up.

Partnership aims to create a triangle of prosperity in Ipswich

The Ipswich Vision Partnership is made up of organisations working to improve the town.

They include the borough and county councils, Ipswich Central, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, the University of Suffolk, The Chamber of Commerce, and Ipswich MP Sandy Martin.

The Partnership was instrumental in bringing together the partners who are rebuilding the Cornhill – and it is the group behind the aim of “Turning the Town Around” by shifting the central commercial axis linking the traditional town centre to the Waterfront.

Ipswich Vision Chair Terry Hunt said: “In many ways we’re now looking at creating a triangle between the town centre, the Waterfront and the railway station.

“All of these central elements are within 15 minutes walk of each other – linked by shopping areas, the commercial area of Princes Street and a new walking route along the river from the station to the Waterfront.”