The nine ‘quarters’ of Ipswich town centre could hold key to town’s future success

Artist's impression of Sailmakers - the new name for Tower Ramparts.

Artist's impression of Sailmakers - the new name for Tower Ramparts. - Credit: Archant

This week Ipswich Central revealed their new Vision for the town centre - a plan to turn the axis of the town centre – linking the historic heart of Ipswich to the Waterfront.

The civic quarter is already home to Ipswich council(left) and Suffolk County Council (right).

The civic quarter is already home to Ipswich council(left) and Suffolk County Council (right). - Credit: Archant

It also looks to turn around the fortunes of the commercial centre of a county town that many people feel is now lagging behind other centres.

The vision sets out plans for nine new ‘quarters’– and how linking them up should create a town centre truly fit for the 21st Century.

Here, Paul Geater reports on the finer details of the plan. For video of the blueprint, see here.

Each of the nine distinct “quarters” would have a different character which come together to create a thriving centre.

Map showing the nine 'quarters' of Ipswich

Map showing the nine 'quarters' of Ipswich - Credit: Archant

They knit together to create a range of environments to attract people for different reasons. They are:

1 The Northern Quarter, including Christchurch Park and the Museum which provides leisure facilities for the whole town as well as high-value housing for those who want to live within walking distance of the heart of Ipswich.

2 The Central Quarter, with the Cornhill at its heart and the main shopping centre, including Tavern St, Westgate St (as far as the Museum St junction), the Buttermarket and the two shopping/leisure centres.

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3 The Eastgate Quarter, including Carr Street and most of what had been known as the Mint Quarter – a mixed use area which would include a major new car park for the town.

4 The Westgate Quarter, including the former Civic Centre site and the New Wolsey Theatre – another mixed use area with homes and cultural offerings, including an outdoor performance space near the theatre.

5 The Link Quarter would help bring the town centre and Waterfront together with residential, retail and leisure uses.

6 The Innovation Quarter centred around UCS and Suffolk New College, linking in to:

7 The Maritime Quarter, including the Waterfront and the Island Site, which could become home to a new high-tech cluster if the Wet Dock Crossing is given the go-ahead.

8 The Riverside Quarter – between Stoke Bridge and Prince’s Street Bridge and including the fire station and sorting office sites. This would be walkways and residential areas.

9 The Civic Quarter including the council offices in Russell Road and other office developments along Princes Street – helping to create an attractive route from the railway station to the town centre.

Ipswich Central says a shared masterplan for the town centre should be agreed by the planning authorities to ensure that it is not damaged by “piecemeal” development. For instance it would like to see any new retail applications for the Carr Street area discouraged to allow other uses to develop there.

Moving around the town

Transport to and around the heart of Ipswich is crucial to Ipswich Central’s vision of re-inventing Suffolk’s county town.

Whether people arrive in the town centre by car or public transport – and whether they leave to commute to work by road or rail – having good transport links is crucial.

It is also vital that the transport infrastructure is attractive and easy to use. Ipswich has no shortage of car parking spaces within walking distance of the town centre, but too many of them are on temporary car parks with rudimentary facilities and no signposts to them.

Ipswich Central wants to see two high-quality new multi-storey car parks built – on the site of the Crown Car Park opposite the Tower Ramparts shopping centre and on part of the Mint Quarter site between Tacket Street and Upper Brook Street.

The borough council is already making plans to re-build the Crown Car Park next year – and with the transformation of Tower Ramparts into the Sailmakers’ Centre that should be a major boost.

The other car park Ipswich Central wants would be on land currently occupied by the large NCP surface car park behind Upper Brook Street – but would be set well back from that street to allow large new retail units to be built.

But the vision also looks at improving public transport links – and central to this is creating a single, high-quality, bus station for all bus services to the town centre.

It says the best place for this would be the site currently occupied by Jewson’s Builders’ Merchants next to Cardinal Park.

This would be within easy walking distance of the town centre and the railway station – and would enable the town’s existing bus stations to be redeveloped.

The Old Cattle Market could be redeveloped for independent retailers and residential development while at Tower Ramparts there could be an extension to Sailmakers with a direct link to a new Crown multi-storey car park.

Alongside these changes new pedestrian walkways – many in fully-pedestrianised areas – could be created.

These would include Museum Street to the west of the town centre and Upper Brook Street to the east – buses would be diverted to Civic Drive and Upper Orwell Street respectively.

Housing is key

A key aspiration of the vision for Ipswich is to increase the number of people living in the heart of the town – in a variety of different types of housing.

Hundreds of new flats are being built around the Waterfront, but Ipswich Central sees the potential to build a further 2,000 homes in the town centre – including new townhouses and building conversions.

Urban living is becoming a popular lifestyle choice – some people do not want properties with large gardens that need maintenance and Ipswich Central sees the possibility of many homes being built in the Eastgate, Westgate, Riverside and Link Quarters of the town centre.

In other parts of the country – in the cities of Bristol, Gloucester, and Hull in particular – high-quality urban homes have helped to revive urban areas.

In east London, around the Olympic site, new homes sit alongside the huge new Westfield Centre and have helped to create one of Europe’s most exciting retail/leisure and shopping areas.

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