Does Ipswich have too many shops? High street report claim rejected
PUBLISHED: 16:15 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:18 20 December 2018
Ipswich town centre is not overrun with shops but shifting the spotlight from retail, restaurants and pubs could bring benefits, business and council chiefs have said.
Both Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter and council leader David Ellesmere rejected claims in a national report by Sir John Timpson that Britain’s high streets have twice as many shops as they need – because consumers are finding other ways of making purchases.
Speaking to the BBC, Sir John also urged authorities to take a fresh look at having more community facilities in town centres, such as schools, homes and medical centres.
Mr Baxter said he would support having more homes in central Ipswich – so people are there 24 hours a day.
He also said Sir John was right to say high streets need a change in focus.
“We’ve been saying that since we published our ‘turning the town around’ report in 2014 looking at replacing the east-west axis with a north-south axis,” he added.
“We do need to look at bringing in more homes so you have people in the town centre 24 hours a day – and we need services that support people living in the town centre.”
Mr Ellesmere pointed out that the town centre was changing – and that many of the issues highlighted by Sir John had already been identified in Ipswich.
He said: “We have seen the Buttermarket centre being redeveloped from being an almost-entirely retail-based centre into somewhere based on the cinema, bowling centre and restaurants.
“And on Carr Street the former Co-op department store is going to be transformed into a new primary school for the families living in the town centre.”
But retail remains an important factor for Ipswich, he said.
“There are pressures on the shops in Ipswich as there are everywhere else but I certainly would not accept that we have twice as many shops as we need,” Mr Ellesmere added.
“However, we are going to see more people living in the town centre – that is shown by the way proposals for the Riverside area have changed from a large Tesco with a few homes to now the proposal is for a new housing area with a few convenience stores.”
Retailer Sir John, chairman of Timpson which has 2,000 stores across Britain, was commissioned by the government to produce the report.