New guidelines encourage retailers to build shop fronts that complement historic buildings in Ipswich town centre

The SPD says St Nicholas Street is a well managed traditional shopping street with historic shop fro

The SPD says St Nicholas Street is a well managed traditional shopping street with historic shop fronts. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Let’s make the most of the beautiful buildings in Ipswich town centre. That is the message to retailers and other businesses amid concerns that some shop fronts don’t reflect the traditional character of the buildings they occupy.

The Ancient House, Buttermarket, Ipswich, in September 1912. Photo from David Kindred.

The Ancient House, Buttermarket, Ipswich, in September 1912. Photo from David Kindred.

Now a report from the borough council is setting out guidelines - in the hope it can lead to more harmonious shop front designs which make the most of the town centre’s history.

Bill Knowles, vice chairman of the Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) planning and development committee, said: “Ipswich is an historic town, we have been here for hundreds of years and there are some real jewels and some good old buildings.

“There’s a great diversity of structures and different shapes and sizes and we want to encourage better and more harmonious design without losing any individuality.”

With buildings dating back hundreds of years, shoppers only have to look up to see piece of history within the architecture.

IBC has created a set of guidelines to push traders to incorporate and complement these original features in their shop front designs.

Carole Jones, portfolio holder for development at IBC, said Lakeland in the Ancient House was the perfect example of a retailer that had preserved an old building’s aesthetic value.

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“Where you have got an historic building, a shop owner can capitalise on that like Lakeland has,” she added.

“Part of the pleasure of shopping in Lakeland is you enter this absolutely remarkable and unique building which is not only stunning on the outside but stunning on the inside.

“Ipswich has got a medieval street pattern and it’s got wonderful buildings in our town centre and sometimes you’ve only got to look upstairs on the first floor and to see really how lovely they are and how interesting they are.”

Ms Jones said she was hopeful that these changes could attract more shoppers into Ipswich - but she also urged people living in the town to start spending their money locally in order to fully revitalise the high street.

“All the beautiful shop fronts in the world won’t make the town centre a success unless Ipswich people choose to shop here, so it’s really important that we are loyal to our own town and support the businesses there, that’s the bottom line,” she added.

“This is one small effort we are making through the planning system to make the town centre attractive and appealing, but we need people to follow up on that.”

Peter Gardiner, chairman of the borough’s planning and development committee, said IBC did not want to deter big retailers from moving into Ipswich.

He added: “I think there is a balance to be had because we want to encourage new shops to come into the town centre. They may well have a standard pattern that they use across the country in terms of their shop fronts so we have to be careful, we don’t want to drive away new companies, but we want new shop owners to retain some of the real character that is still there.”

The shop front design guide, called a supplementary planning document (SPD), has gone to public consultation and Mr Knowles, Ms Jones and Mr Gardiner all said it had been positively received.

The SPD has already been unanimously approved by the executive committee of IBC, and on Wednesday it will go before the full council where Ms Jones said it was due be formally adopted.

The guidelines are not prescriptive but should be considered by any retailer seeking to gain planning permission to create a new shop front or replace an existing one.

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