Vote of confidence in town centre

IN the middle of all the talk of economic gloom and recession it is heartening to hear that the boss of Waitrose has given Ipswich a firm vote of confidence by confirming that his company is seeking to open a store in the town.

IN the middle of all the talk of economic gloom and recession it is heartening to hear that the boss of Waitrose has given Ipswich a firm vote of confidence by confirming that his company is seeking to open a store in the town.

An exact site for the store has still to be determined. There was speculation that the company wanted to occupy the main shop unit on the Westgate Centre - but Marks and Spencer seems to have leapfrogged it as favourites for that site.

That could see attention turn to the long-planned and often-delayed Mint Quarter project between Carr Street and Tacket Street.

In the past this has not been seen as such a high-value site, but with the arrival of UCS and the continued development of the Waterfront with its high-quality flats nearby, that site must now be seen as more attractive for a company like Waitrose.

Wherever the store does decided to build in Ipswich, though, the very fact that the town is still high on its list for new openings is great news at a time of gloom on the high street.

A new Waitrose would hardly be a like-for-like replacement to Woolworths, but it would at least bring in new retail jobs to the town just at the time when one of the biggest stores looks set to shut up shop.

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And with Tesco's looking to open two new stores near the town centre - at St Matthew's Street and Grafton Way - and Asda about to start work on its Stoke Park store things are not as bleak as they might seem.

THIS winter has so far been one of the most miserable we have had to endure for many years.

Not only have we had all the miserable economic news, we have also had to suffer from some of the dullest and coldest weather we have had before Christmas for many years.

And once again there have been fears that the authorities - particularly Suffolk County Council's highways' department - have been slow to react when roads have become icy.

Of course drivers need to drive appropriately to the conditions. Of course it is impossible to grit every road in the county instantly.

But there have again been cases this year when relatively heavily-used roads like the old A45 have only been gritted after a nasty accident.

There was a similar situation last December when the gritters were sent out to the B1077 - a vital route for people living in rural Mid-Suffolk to reach Ipswich - only after a fatal accident which left two young people dead.

The authorities cannot do anything to lift the gloom or raise the temperature - but they can do a great deal more to ensure that our roads, the vital arteries that keep the life of the company flowing, are kept as safe as possible.

DRINK-driving is a serious issue at any time of the year - and at Christmas there is always particular attention paid to the problem as people are tempted to get behind the wheel after festive parties.

That is why The Evening Star runs its Name and Shame campaign over the festive season - and why it is so important that the message about drink driving gets through to every road user.