New hotel comes under fire

A NEW £12million development for a 130-bedroom hotel and 56 flats in the town centre of Ipswich has today come under attack.If plans go ahead for the six-storey, lodge-style hotel existing shops on St Matthew's Street, including Blockbuster Video and needlecraft shop Franklins, would have to be bulldozed.

A NEW £12million development for a 130-bedroom hotel and 56 flats in the town centre of Ipswich has today come under attack.

If plans go ahead for the six-storey, lodge-style hotel existing shops on St Matthew's Street, including Blockbuster Video and needlecraft shop Franklins, would have to be bulldozed.

But owners and workers have said they were not notified of the application before it was submitted to Ipswich Borough Council last week and now they have been made aware of plans they are not prepared to go.

A town centre councillor has also slammed the proposals as unattractive and too similar to other developments in the pipelines.

Only one worker in all of the shops admitted to knowing anything about the development before the planning application was handed in.

A shop assistant from Video Heaven, who did not wish to be named, said: "I heard a rumour that there was a new development taking place but was told it wouldn't happen for another five years."

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Whiston Pine has been open in the parade of shops for three-and-a-half years.

Owner Stafford Whiston said: "I would have to relocate or pull out of Ipswich and where else is there for me to go?

"We have built up a good customer base here and are happy in this location. "There are probably around 50 people who earn their living from these shops and who would lose their jobs if the proposal happened.

"This parade is filled with unique shops and I think the high street would suffer if Ipswich loses what individuality it has."

Sally Avery, manager of CLC Bookshop, said: "I had no idea of the development and we haven't been told anything from the head office. It would depend heavily on what we get offered to leave and the time scale involved as to how we feel but we are more than happy being here. It has been good for us."

Ipswich town centre councillor Kevan Lim, of the Suffolk County Council, has raised his own concerns over the development.

He said: "The existing building is not the best one in the town so a new development would be a good thing but this proposal is just unattractive.

"I agree there is a shortage of hotels and affordable housing in the town centre but just because homes are going to be affordable it doesn't mean they should look cheap.

"The development also looks extremely similar to other ones going up on the waterfront and I am worried that all buildings in the centre of Ipswich will look exactly the same."

Beanland Associates Architects who are working for developers Kenmore say they are now in discussions with the exisiting shops.

Stan Beanland, director of Beanland Associates Architects, said: "The whole development process is likely to take a number of years and the shops are all on short tenancies anyway but if anyone does have to move we will look after them."

James Craig, from Kenmore, said: "We wrote and let the present businesses know about the plans within a week of the application being submitted to the council.

"The planning application does not affect the leases currently held with ourselves and just recently we let the former QS retail unit to the British Heart Foundation on a five year lease and are currently trying to let the vacant unit to a local hairdresser.

"We hope this shows our level of commitment to maintaining our existing tenants."

What do you think of the proposals? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk