Town needs mint without hole
IPSWICH is on the brink of something really tremendous as the development of the waterfront gets into top gear.The Ipswich Partnership is doing a great job to bring shoppers into the town - and the entertainment planned for the Christmas light switch-on next week should guarantee big crowds.
IPSWICH is on the brink of something really tremendous as the development of the waterfront gets into top gear.
The Ipswich Partnership is doing a great job to bring shoppers into the town - and the entertainment planned for the Christmas light switch-on next week should guarantee big crowds.
But while no one could do any better at the present, I do have concerns in one or two quarters looking into the future.
Ipswich council really does need to go out and fight for the expansion that is now tantalisingly within reach.
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Whatever consultants DTZ said in their report - and it is as positive as it is negative - the town is competing for shoppers in a tough market.
And unless there is really substantial investment Ipswich won't realise the fantastic potential that it has.
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With thousands of expensive new homes going up around the waterfront, a spanking new university on its way, literally millions of pounds flooding into the town's economy, retailers should be desperately trying to come into town.
Yet the new developments at the Mint Quarter and on the Civic Centre site still seem some way off.
This year's Christmas issue of the Ipswich Angle is doing a great job selling the positive side of the town to people throughout Suffolk.
As someone who lives and works in the town, most of my Christmas shopping will be done in Ipswich - and that is undoubtedly the same for most people actually living in the town.
But if Ipswich is to really claim to be a regional centre then it has to attract people living 30 miles from the Cornhill - not just those living three miles from the Cornhill.
And you have to look at what Ipswich has to offer in comparison with Norwich, Cambridge, and Colchester.
Norwich has just seen a big new shopping centre opening - with dozens of new stores that you won't find in Ipswich.
You're always going to find one shopping centre moving ahead of another and then the first coming back.
When Tower Ramparts and the Buttermarket Centre first opened, Ipswich moved ahead of its rivals. Since then they've come back.
Now our town needs to get its new developments up and running. Councillors need to go out and persuade retailers to push for work to start on the Mint Quarter.
If the key points about finding a new home is location, location, location, then the Mint Quarter must have it all for retailers.
It's in the town centre. It's near the waterfront. It's near the university. It should be just the place for the likes of H&M, Borders Books, and other upmarket retailers.
This development should happen at the same time as the new homes are going up on the waterfront and new university is being built - with the Mint Quarter going up at the same time as the new homes there is a real chance that Ipswich will become a real Premiership shopping centre.
If there are delays, there is a serious concern that new affluent residents will look elsewhere for their major shopping. That must not be allowed to happen.
Councils and organisations like the Ipswich Partnership need to work closely together to encourage new developments in the town centre.
Sometimes you get the impression that the borough is keener to see its own Civic Centre site developed first. On one level that's understandable - the borough will get a big cash bonus from the development of the Civic Centre site.
From the overall perspective of the town centre, however, such a policy would be daft. The Mint Quarter is the natural bridge between the town centre, the Waterfront and the new university.
The Civic Centre site will be a welcome addition to the town centre when it happens. But retailers need to the told that the position of the Mint Quarter makes it ideal for the upmarket stores.
I really hope that the planners, councillors, and retailers pull together to get this development up and running in the very near future - if that happens then Ipswich town centre in 2010 could be very exciting. If it stays on the drawing for too long it would be bad news for the town.
STILL on the subject of shopping, I see the government is now considering relaxing the Sunday trading laws to allow shops to stay open from 9am to 6pm.
After last week's loony idea of trying to ban alcohol from trains, it is refreshing to see sanity has broken out in Whitehall.
The current Sunday trading laws are farcical. Only being allowed to open for six hours means that everyone piles into the town centre for a few hours and by 4.30pm the place is like a ghost town.
In these days of multi-culturalism in our multi-faith society it really isn't good enough to impose laws governing one religion's holy day while there is no protection given to Moslem workers who might want to take Fridays off or Jewish workers who might not want to work on Saturdays.
Let's have a system where all workers have the right to ask for one day a week off on religious grounds - but don't force everyone to work different hours on a Sunday.