Vision calls for Ipswich town centre to be a place to live and work

Tesco's vision of new homes by Ipswich riverside. Could a similar development be built in the future

Tesco's vision of new homes by Ipswich riverside. Could a similar development be built in the future? - Credit: Contributed

A mixture of uses is vital to ensure the long-term future of Ipswich town centre, according to the new Vision for the town unveiled by Ipswich Central this week.

St Peter's Street

St Peter's Street

The plan sets out a plan to divid the town into nine ‘quarters’.

Surrounding the Central Quarter, Ipswich Central envisages six distinct quarters – each with its own distinct character but each providing a mixture of uses with new homes a recurring theme.

The Westgate and Eastgate Quarters are at opposite ends of the Central Quarter, providing a mixture of homes, leisure, commercial, and secondary retail uses.

At the heart of the Westgate Quarter is the former Civic Centre site which could include the former police station – where the demolition project is just starting – and former Crown Court.

An architect's impression of the new-look offices in Princes Street.

An architect's impression of the new-look offices in Princes Street. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Council’s retail study by London-based DTZ said this site should be retail-led – but Ipswich Central and its locally-based architects Barefoot & Gilles believe its potential is in residential development with a strong cultural offering.

This would be linked to the success of the New Wolsey Theatre, and the existing layout of the area could easily be adapted to provide opportunities for outdoor theatre and concerts to complement its existing offering.

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There would be opportunities for new services in the area like doctors’ or dentists’ surgeries and some retail which would complement the new residential developments – like new convenience stores.

The masterplan has a similar vision for the Eastgate Quarter at the opposite end of the “golden mile” which includes the Carr Street area which has become well-known as the home to a significant number of budget retailers.

The message in the vision is blunt about this area: “Planners must positively deter new retail occupiers in these areas.”

Ipswich Central wants to see the area, which includes the run-down Upper Orwell Street, transformed into a basically residential-led quarter with leisure and entertainment a significant factor – it includes the Regent Theatre and the shell of the former Odeon Cinema.

It would also include a major new high-quality multi-storey car park on the site of the existing Tacket Street park with links directly to the rear of large new stores along Upper Brook Street.

The historic former Co-op department store dominates the southern side of Carr Street, and there are suggestions that the upper floors of this – and the land behind it – could be turned into high-quality urban homes.

The document suggests that across Ipswich town centre up to 2,000 new homes could be built – partly by converting flats above shops and cafes and partly by building new town houses.

Over the last few years there have already been small developments of town houses in the town centre, and it is this kind of development that should be considered elsewhere.

North and south

Two areas which are vital leisure spaces for those living and visiting the town centre can be found to the north and south of the town centre.

The Northern Quarter includes Christchurch Park and the Ipswich Museum – both vital to the quality of life in the town.

The park is one of the finest urban parks in Britain, and was restored with a multi-million pound lottery grant a few years ago.

The High Street museum is currently the subject of another lottery bid which, if successful, could see it transformed into a major attraction for both visitors and residents.

This part of town has some of the most desirable homes in Ipswich, and the vision sees the opportunity for new high-quality urban homes to be built in this area. To the south of the town the Riverside Quarter extends along the Orwell from Stoke Bridge to Princes Street bridge – although in effect it runs further along the river to the new development off Ranelagh Road.

Much of this land is still owned by Tesco’s property arm – but Ipswich Central wants to see it developed as new waterside homes and attractive walkways. It urges the borough council to consider a compulsory purchase order for the site to at least ensure it becomes an attractive landscaped area in the medium term.

The Riverside Quarter sits next to Cardinal Park, the town’s main leisure area with the Cineworld multiplex, nightclubs, and restaurants – and could be a major addition to the town’s leisure offer.

Bringing the historic centre and the Waterfront together

The Link Quarter is seen as vital to the ambition of bringing together the historic centre of Ipswich and the Waterfront – seen as the town’s secret weapon in the battle to reinvent itself.

The Link Quarter extends south from the town centre itself in the area bounded by St Peter’s Street/St Nicholas Street and Fore Street and is in part already achieving this vision.

The rebirth of St Peter’s Street and the creation of Curson Square with its statue of Cardinal Wolsey who was born in the area has been a major success.

Now Ipswich Central wants to repeat that success further across the Quarter.

At the heart of this ambition is the redevelopment of the Archant site in Lower Brook Street.

Ipswich Central wants to see the area become home to new independent retailers, offices, and more town houses – there is already a development of modern townhouses in the Turret Lane/Rose Lane area.

Further new bars and cafes should also be encouraged – and in the long term one of the sites that should be redeveloped is the Old Cattle Market bus station.

Key to the success of this Quarter is the principle that pedestrians should have priority when moving between the town centre and the Waterfront.

Ipswich Central wants to ensure that pedestrian crossings are prioritised for those on foot rather than motorists – hopefully the traffic using the Star Lane/College Street system will be reduced if a new Wet Dock Crossing is built.

Business heart

The Civic Quarter, running along Princes Street from the railway station to the town centre and along Russell Road by the council offices, is where the business heart of Ipswich beats.

It is also home to Ipswich Town Football Club – ensuring a diversity of use throughout the day and into the evening.

Princes Street is already seeing the arrival of new high-quality offices at Fison House and there are exciting plans for further new offices including a new home for major law firm Birketts.

There are also plans to build new offices on the site of the garages opposite St Clare House – and the former cattle market on Portman Road is also ripe for development although there will be a continuing need for high-quality car parking to service new offices in the area.

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