Town centre changes could bring £100 million bonanza to Ipswich

Terry Baxter and David Ellesmere have welcomed the report.

Terry Baxter and David Ellesmere have welcomed the report. - Credit: Archant

Radical changes to Ipswich town centre could be worth as much as £100 million a year to the local economy if implemented in full, according to a new study.

Aecom is a multinational consultancy firm which was commissioned by Ipswich Central to look at its proposals to turn around the axis of the town centre and refocus the heart of the town.

It was asked to work out the likely impact on the local economy if the proposals were implemented – and estimated they could be worth between £85million and £100million a year if implemented in full.

The capital value of new properties would be much higher – 2,000 new homes would generate £186 million in capital investment alone.

The report also says that making the changes to the town centre could bring 100 new construction jobs to the town centre every year for a decade.

These figures dwarf the cost of the changes that are being proposed to bring more business to the town centre – and are based on a belief that a substantial investment will attract many more visitors.

Aecon points out that the retail offer in the town centre has been declining for many years – between 2010 and 2013 Ipswich slipped from 50th to 58th in the national retail rankings.

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At the same time Bury St Edmunds rose up the rankings and Norwich and Cambridge established themselves in much higher positions.

A report prepared by Ipswich Central using the Aecom statistics says: “Ipswich’s retail offer is struggling and falling further behind its competitors.”

The report suggests that changes to the town centre could lead to an 20% increase in day visits to the town by tourists and 10% increase in overnight visits – this would bring in an extra £48 million a year to the local economy.

If a major new attraction was developed this could bring between £5.2 million and £15.5 million a year to the local economy.

Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter said the importance of the report was that it showed that the cost of spending money on changes to the town centre had to be seen as an investment.

He said: “The whole point of our document is that this is an investment aimed at bringing more business to the town and that will allow it to become more prosperous.

“We need to make the point that any money put into improvements needs to be regarded as an investment that will bring more finance back into the town.”

The whole Ipswich Vision remained a long-term project which would need investment from the public and private sector, but Mr Baxter was hopeful that its potential benefits would become clear.

As well as emphasising the importance of rebuilding the Cornhill and pedestrianising Queen Street, it aims to improve the links to the Waterfront along Fore Street and through the “Link Quarter” between the Buttermarket Centre and Star Lane.

And the redevelopments of the two town centre shopping centres, the Buttermarket and Sailmakers, are crucial to bringing new prosperity to the heart of Ipswich.

Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere has read the study, and said it should be a valuable tool in persuading other bodies to invest in the town centre.

He said: “It has good news for the local authorities because it shows the amount that could come through the new homes bonus and increased council taxes and business rates.

“But what is more important is that this shows clearly how much more money could come into the local economy from a major investment in the town centre.

“The borough has already pledged to invest in the town centre – now I hope others follow our lead.”

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