Ipswich: Waitrose could be open in town centre by Christmas

IPSWICH: The town could have its first Waitrose store open and trading by Christmas, the Evening Star has learned.

The borough council is to discuss proposals to turn the ground floor of the Corn Exchange into a small supermarket for the retail giant at its executive meeting on Tuesday.

It is expected to get the go-ahead and that could pave the way for work to get under way during the spring, with the store open by October or November.

Borough deputy leader John Carnall said there seemed to be widespread support for a Waitrose in the town centre.

He said: “I think it would be good for the town and certainly that seems to be the opinion of most of the people we have heard from.

“We don’t know when they want to open it, but if things go through on schedule it should be possible to get it open in the autumn.

“I imagine Waitrose would want to tap into the Christmas market.”

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The borough’s leisure spokesman Andrew Cann has insisted that creating a new supermarket on the site of the Gatsby’s bar and part of the Robert Cross Hall would not damage the Corn Exchange’s viability or the Ipswich Film Theatre.

There have been fears about the deal raised by Dr Chris Green from the Ipswich Arts Association who has warned that a supermarket on the site could make it impossible to operate the Corn Exchange.

A spokesman for the company said he was not able to give any undertakings about when a town centre store or the proposed new development at the Crane site on Nacton Road would open.

But he said that Waitrose continued to be pleased about the public response to the proposals to come to the town.

He said: “We are still working on these proposals, but the public reaction has been very positive.

“It is clear that the people of Ipswich and the surrounding area are very keen for us to open there and we are working as hard as we can to make that happen.”

The borough’s executive is due to discuss the details of the Corn Exchange deal at its meeting on Tuesday evening.

Because the issue includes financial details it has to be discussed behind closed doors – but once a decision is made full details are expected to become clear.

Waitrose, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, has been looking for a site in Ipswich for many years.

The Corn Exchange site would be a small supermarket, and a large supermarket is proposed for the Crane site on Nacton Road opposite the Ravenswood development if planning permission is granted.