Waterfront breakfasts, walking to the office and no gardening - the benefits of downsizing and moving to a town centre apartment in Ipswich

Liz Harsant is enjoying her new life in the town centre

Liz Harsant is enjoying her new life in the town centre - Credit: Archant

Having sold her house in Salisbury Road and moved into a newly-converted two-bedroomed flat in Ipswich town centre. former council leader Liz Harsant is loving in the heart of the town.

Liz and Russell Harsant were the power couple of Ipswich a decade ago. They are pictured with Ipswic

Liz and Russell Harsant were the power couple of Ipswich a decade ago. They are pictured with Ipswich MP Ben Gummer. - Credit: Archant

Liz and her late husband Russell were the power couple of Ipswich local politics a decade ago. Liz was the Conservative leader of a coalition administration at the Ipswich Council while Russell was a county and borough councillor who had led the Ipswich Tories in opposition.

Their home in Salisbury Road was very busy – but after Russell died at the end of 2011 Liz found it increasingly difficult to maintain and last year eventually decided it was time to downsize.

So she sold the large three-bedroomed family home and moved into a newly-converted two-bedroomed flat in the town centre. And she is enjoying life in her new home.

She is still a very busy member of Ipswich Council – now fulfilling an “Elder Statesman” role at Grafton House – and finds life in her new flat very liberating.

She said: “To be honest we’d never have done this if Russell was still alive. He loved the garden and living in the big house. But it was getting too much. I was finding I wasn’t going into some rooms for a week or more. I’ve never been a gardener, but I felt I had to keep it tidy because Russell loved it so much – so I was paying someone to keep it in order.”

Eventually Liz felt she had to downsize and took the decision to move into the town centre.

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Her flat has two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom off its own hall. She has turned one of the bedrooms into an office for her council work.I had the units that I wanted installed – it is just as I want it and I’m very happy here.

“There was a lot of stuff that I had to get rid of – I wanted a new start and I was very ruthless but I’m glad I did it. It was certainly the right decision.”

Liz moved into her new home in March last year and quickly got used to her new life. By downsizing she saved the cost of running her large home – and also ended up with some cash in her pocket. That enabled her to take more holidays and enjoy the metropolitan lifestyle.

Liz Harsant is enjoying her new life in the town centre

Liz Harsant is enjoying her new life in the town centre - Credit: Archant

“It’s good. I’m never lonely. I can go downstairs and just round the corner and go to the coffee shop – and whenever I go out I bump into someone I know who wants to talk to me about something.

“Last summer I often used to wander down to the Waterfront for breakfast – I’m looking forward to doing that again this year.”

Her family lives nearby – she has daughters living in Melton and in Nacton village. They appreciate having a town centre base to leave their shopping on trips to the town.

Another decision Liz made was to give up her car – she gave it to her grandson. “I just wasn’t using it and it wasn’t worth paying for a parking permit,” she said.

She now uses buses or walks around the town centre – and gets lifts from her family: “I’ve used a taxi twice in the year I think. I’ve still got a licence if I did want to hire a car, but there’s been no need.”

It did take a bit of time to get used to some aspects of town centre living: “It can be quite noisy on Friday and Saturday nights. At first I was worried when I heard girls screaming late at night, but then I realised that was just how some of them sounded when they came out of the clubs. You get used to it – there’s very good double glazing and insulation.”

And Liz is certainly not regretting leaving her large house behind – she’s even considering buying another flat at some point: “I’ve looked at others and I might like starting again. It’s great fun!” she said.

More town centre homes on the way for Ipswich

There are new flats being created in well-known buildings in the heart of Ipswich, like Electric Hou

There are new flats being created in well-known buildings in the heart of Ipswich, like Electric House on Tower Ramparts.

An increasing number of new homes – flats, studios, maisonettes and townhouses – are being created in the heart of Ipswich both with new-builds and converting existing buildings into homes.

The construction of new flats around the Waterfront has been continuing for several years and is expected to accelerate this year with work on the “Wine Rack” due to restart.

But many of the new homes are not such obvious landmarks – but are helping to achieve Ipswich Vision’s ambition of encouraging more people to live in the heart of the town.

Electric House on Tower Ramparts is being converted into flats and former offices of the Britannia Building Society on Queen Street have been converted.

High-specification flats have been created in St Matthew’s Street and in areas like the Saints with Curson House.

And there are many more on the way. Ipswich Council has recently given planning permission for a new retirement development by McCarthy & Stone in Lower Brook Street.

Law firm Birketts will be moving out of Museum Street to new offices in Princes Street early next year.

The company’s existing premises were originally town houses and it is expected that they will eventually be converted back into homes – although probably flats rather than large town houses.

The Ipswich Vision partners want to see up to 2,000 new homes created in the town centre over the next 10 years in a bid to bring life to the area throughout the day.

Many of these developments will be for a handful of new homes so they may not make the headlines that large-scale buildings do, but cumulatively they could help change the nature of the town centre.

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