Will market fill hole in Mint Quarter?
THE fate of Ipswich market could lie in the hands of one of the biggest names on the high street.The market has been due to move into the Mint Quarter – the new shopping centre due to be built between Carr Street and Tacket Street.
By Paul Geater
THE fate of Ipswich market could lie in the hands of one of the biggest names on the high street.
The market has been due to move into the Mint Quarter – the new shopping centre due to be built between Carr Street and Tacket Street.
However work on the new shopping centre has been delayed because of the demerger of Woolworths from their former parent company Kingfisher.
Property developer Helical Retail, which is to build the new shopping centre in partnership with the site's owner NCP, had been in advanced talks with Kingfisher about the future plans.
NCP owns the Woolworth building in Carr Street – the retailer has a lease which can only be terminated after several months' notice.
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Now, however, the business is owned by Woolworth plc and negotiations with Helical have gone back to an early stage.
Before the demerger it had been planned that Woolworths would move into the largest unit in the new development. Helical still hopes that will happen – but there will have to be a lot of heavy talking first.
Helical is not prepared to start redevelopment work until the tenants for its "anchor" store are tied up – and if agreement with Woolworths cannot be reached it accepts there could be a long delay.
"If they don't want to do a deal then ultimately we would have to look for a new tenant and take action to terminate the lease," said Jonathan Cox, from Helical.
"But we're having more talks with Woolworths in the spring and I hope we will eventually be able to reach agreement with them."
However there could be no further moves on the Mint Quarter until the position regarding the anchor store and Woolworths' current building was resolved.
All this discussion has put back the day that the market could move into a purpose-build square as part of the development.
Originally the plans for the Mint Quarter were to have been submitted to Ipswich Council more than a year ago, discussions were due to have taken place with planners during 2001 and work should have started about now with the centre being completed by Christmas 2003.
That timetable has slipped badly – planning discussions should not take as long as was originally planned because many issues have already been thrashed out.
But even if an agreement between Woolworths and Helical is reached in the first half of this year, it is unlikely that any work could start until next year at the earliest – with new space for the market becoming available in 2005 at the earliest.
N Coupons continue to flood into our market survey. Another 140 have arrived in our office – all calling for the market to move to a central Ipswich location.
This means that so far we have had 340 coupons returned to us – 339 are in favour of the market moving to a central location and one didn't want Ipswich to have a market.
In our online poll at www.eveningstar.co.uk nearly 700 people have voted, with 82 per cent wanting the market to move to a new central Ipswich location.