Less than a fifth of people taking part in Ipswich Star survey did their Christmas shopping in the town centre – why is it so unpopular?

The GAP store in Westgate Street which is closing. Photograph SimonParker

The GAP store in Westgate Street which is closing. Photograph SimonParker - Credit: Archant

The full scope of the challenge facing Ipswich town centre has become clear as it emerged that less than one in five people taking part in the Star’s survey on the town had done their Christmas shopping here.

With the announcement this week that one of Ipswich’s largest stores – Gap – is to close, and little hope of a major boost from the development of the Cornhill, the town’s future hangs in the balance.

Work on the Cornhill will not start until early 2016 at the earliest and it is becoming clear that the county council is reluctant to commit any money to the project, however it is prepared to try to find funding from other sources.

Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee said: “I am calling a meeting with Ipswich Borough Council, Ipswich Central, New Anglia LEP and other key partners and will be facilitating a discussion around how we can look to attract external funding and private investment into the Cornhill to ensure these plans can get off the ground.”

According to our survey, the results of which will be revealed in full in an eight-page supplement on Monday, only 18% of respondents did their main Christmas shopping in the town centre.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, which represents businesses operating in the heart of the town, accepted there was a major problem with the town centre.

He said: “The elephant in the room is that the retail offering in Ipswich is not good enough.”

Most Read

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer agreed: “There is a great deal that needs to be done in the town and not everything will happen immediately, but unless we make a start – and that has to be with the Cornhill – the town centre will continue to struggle.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the findings of the survey showed the importance of boosting the town centre by redeveloping the Cornhill.

Meanwhile there was a mixed reaction to the news that Queen Street was going to be pedestrianised and turned into an area for the market to expand into.

Work on this is expected to start later this year, and as well as paving the street will also include installing electricity points so stalls can plug into the mains while operating.

Shops and restaurants in Queen Street have welcomed the move, hoping it will bring more customers to their part of the town centre.

However there is some concern among market traders about whether their customers will follow them from the Cornhill.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter