Next and Laura Ashley join Gap as they prepare to exit Ipswich town centre

Next Ipswich which will be closing in October

Next Ipswich which will be closing in October

Two of the largest stores in Ipswich town centre are preparing to close their doors for the last time.

Laura Ashley in the Buttermarket Centre is closing on August 24 and Next in Westgate Street will be shutting on October 3.

The closure of Laura Ashley is not unexpected – the Buttermarket Centre is currently undergoing a multi-million rebuild to create a leisure-led landmark for the town.

But the closure of Next is seen as a real blow for the town centre – the company has been in discussions with its landlord for many months but was unable to agree an extension to its lease.

A spokesman for the company confirmed that the shop would be closing during the autumn – but she said it was still keen to retain a presence in the town centre.

She said: “We are disappointed that we are not going to be able to stay in the town centre at this time and will continue to look for alternative premises in Ipswich.”

As many of the 30 staff as possible would be found alternative jobs in its other nearby shops – Next has a branch at Suffolk Retail Park off Handford Road and at Martlesham Heath. There are also stores in Colchester and Bury St Edmunds town centres.

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Laura Ashley’s nearest stores are a concession in the Homebase store at Warren Heath and at Woodbridge. The company also has other stores in the area.

A spokesman said: “As part of Laura Ashley’s on-going store realignment programme, the company will be closing its Ipswich store at the end of August 2015.

“We are in consultation with all employees affected by this closure and we aim to redeploy where possible.

“We look forward to welcoming new and existing customers to our store in Bury St Edmunds which showcases our full range of Fashion, Decorating, Furniture and Accessories and the home store in Homebase in Ipswich.”

The news about the closures comes just months after Gap left the town centre – although its former site in Westgate Street is currently being converted into an extension to the neighbouring Primark Store.

The news about the closures came as a disappointment to both Ipswich Council and Ipswich Central – although both organisations insisted it showed how important it was to continue with the proposals to improve the town centre.

The Ipswich Vision document calls for new “big box” stores to be built along Upper Brook Street with a multi-storey car park behind them. These are the type of unit that Next and Laura Ashley occupy in other towns and cities.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said: “This is very disappointing news. The town urgently needs a proactive approach to retaining existing and winning new retailers.

“We now have an agreed Vision for how the town centre will develop and one of the partners with sufficient experience must now take on an inward investment role.

“This is currently absent and it is a significant weakness. We are ready to play our part.”

Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere also felt the two closures should spur on the members of the vision to improve the town centre.

He said: “It is disappointing to be losing stores in the town centre – especially when Next have made it clear that they really want to stay here.

“This really should spur on the members of the Ipswich Vision group to work to ensure there are new stores built that are the right size and in the right location for stores like Next and Laura Ashley.”

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