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Is a new Next next for town centre as Cornhill work heralds a start to redevelopment in Ipswich?

PUBLISHED: 23:50 17 August 2017

Terry Baxter said Ipswich was ready to compete for new town centre buisnesses. Picture: ARCHANT

Terry Baxter said Ipswich was ready to compete for new town centre buisnesses. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Another phase of archaeological and geological tests starts on Ipswich's Cornhill on Monday in preparation for the redevelopment of the town's central square next year.

Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - seen from Tavern Street.Architects' impression of the new look for Ipswich Cornhill - seen from Tavern Street.

Engineers will move in to dig new trenches in an attempt to find any historical relics – and also to establish where underground services are hidden.

The work is a prelude to the start of the main construction work on the Cornhill which is due to begin in January – and to be completed in time for the Christmas season of 2018.

And this is expected to spark an influx of new names into the town centre – with shops, cafes, banks, and other businesses looking hard at what Ipswich has to offer.

The former Grimwades store is set to be split in two and turned into a Pret A Manger takeaway and a bank. The identity of the bank is still not known – but Metro Bank is expanding rapidly in the south of England and a spokeswoman for the company said it would certainly be interested in opening in Ipswich.

The borough owns the old Post Office building which was a Lloyds TSB branch until two years ago – and is hoping to secure a new long-term tenant for the main part of the building.

Town centre experts believe it could be more likely to become a restaurant than a new store.

Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter said: “The fact that work is pressing ahead is very exciting for the town centre and the indications are that retailers are paying attention to what is happening here.

“That is retailers considering investing in their existing premises in the town centre or in looking to move to a new site near the Cornhill which is the heart of Ipswich.”

He felt these were exciting times for the town centre – and Ipswich Central has a “wish-list” of national names it wants to see open in the town centre.

These are headed by Next, which made it clear it wanted to find a new store in the town centre when it pulled out of Westgate Street two years ago.

The arrival of names like Jack Wills, Swarovski, Joules and Pandora has shown that the town centre can attract new retailers as well as new restaurants and the new Empire cinema.

And Mr Baxter felt the town was well-placed to compete with other centres: “This investment will put us in a very strong position to attract new businesses.”

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