Triple boost for town centre set to herald new retail era

IPSWICH: The town is on the verge of a new retail era, The Evening Star can reveal today.

At the end of a week that started with prime minister David Cameron visiting the town and endorsing The Evening Star’s call for Ipswich to be a beacon for the rest of the country, it has emerged that three major developments are well on track.

The new “Little Waitrose” currently being created in the ground floor of the Corn Exchange is to open its doors to the public on February 1, the Waitrose/John Lewis development in Nacton Road looks set to be given the thumbs-up by the borough, and the Tower Ramparts shopping centre has a potential buyer.

The conversion work for the “Little Waitrose” in town is going well and its opening should give the town centre a boost at what is traditionally a very slow time of the year as the post-Christmas sales end and before spring shopping gets under way.

Ipswich council’s economic development spokeswoman Carole Jones said: “We welcome this announcement from Waitrose and are looking forward to the store opening.

“It’s good news for the town, for jobs and for Ipswich’s retail offer and I am sure it will be a big success.”

n The Corn Exchange development will bring Waitrose into town, but if the company has its way it will only be the start of a major role in Ipswich.

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The borough’s planning and development committee is to decide whether to allow Waitrose and its parent company John Lewis to open an out-of-town retail centre opposite Ransomes retail park later this month.

The application is due to be discussed by the borough’s planning and development committee on December 21.

An officers’ recommendation has not yet been published, although the Star understands that they are likely to recommend approval with tight conditions.

One council insider said: “This is a very finely balanced decision because we want to preserve the town centre and that is a site that is earmarked for more traditional employment use.

“But there is a feeling that John Lewis is not going to come to the town centre and it is better to have them there because it might then encourage visitors to come further into Ipswich as well.”

If the application is approved, it could take some time before work on the site actually starts, because there are likely to have to be many negotiations.

n The future of the troubled Tower Ramparts shopping centre could also soon become clearer.

Several of its tenants have moved out over recent months and the centre has been up for sale.

The Star understands that a potential buyer is in negotiations to buy the centre and these are nearing a conclusion.

The Tower Ramparts centre is a key element of the borough’s masterplan to develop a new north/south axis to the shopping centre, running from that to the Waterfront.

The hope is that the new owner will be able to invest in the centre and attract new retailers to larger units that could be created out of those which are currently empty.

n Would these new developments be good for the town? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

n Pub could bring 70 jobs – page 9