Work starts on new store

D-DAY has moved a step closer today for a problem shopping centre in Ipswich after fences were erected ready for bulldozers to move in.

D-DAY has moved a step closer today for a problem shopping centre in Ipswich after fences were erected ready for bulldozers to move in.

Draped in dull grey concrete and with a dour reputation to match, The Centre in Stoke Park Drive, is being knocked down to be replaced with a new neighbourhood centre.

The long-awaited transformation will provider a much-needed boost to the area which has been the scene of repeated anti-social behaviour in recent years with many of the shops becoming derelict.

It gained notoriety back in 2000 when 38-year-old barmaid Janet Fleming was murdered after finishing work at Harleys pub.

However supermarket giants ASDA are hoping to transform the centre's reputation with a 25,000 sq ft supermarket, 14 other shops and 51 apartments.

A spokesman for the company said demolition will get under way imminently and the new development should be completed by November.

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The spokesman said: “We see this very much as a community facility and very much hope it is going to breathe new life and vitality into the area.

“The area went into a downward spiral a few years ago and we look forward to seeing it come back to life and bustling and thriving again.

“It should be a good community centre and hopefully it will be an end to the problems that have blighted it in recent years.”

Paul West, councillor for Stoke Park, said: “Everyone is delighted that at long last work is about to start.

“I had to look twice when I saw the fences go up we have had so many false dawns before.

“It is really good news because quite honestly the whole area had become run down.

“It couldn't go on in its current situation.

“I think it will be a real positive for the area and I think everybody is looking forward to it.”

The development:

A 25,000 sq ft Asda supermarket

14 further shops

A total of 51 apartments - 10 of which will be affordable homes

A medical centre

283 car park spaces

Opening times for the Asda store will be restricted to between 7am and 10pm

Construction work is due to begin in late April once demolition work is complete

STOKE Park Centre was planned in the mid-1960s as the centre of the new community built on the estate.

However by the time it was completed in the early 1970s, the architecture was already looking outdated and in many ways it resembled a mini version of the notorious Greyfriars Centre in the town.

While many of its units were occupied, its inward-looking design with shops clustered around a concrete square, meant it was never a welcoming place.

The nooks and crannies soon attracted the attention of youngsters who wanted somewhere to meet - and this in turn made the centre less welcoming to other members of the public.

It eventually earned a reputation as a haven for muggers which was not entirely accurate, but the architecture - once described as being based on an East German town centre - meant it found few defenders.

Eventually the shops started to leave the centre and it became more like a ghost town.

The pub on the centre, originally called the Harlequin and later known as Harleys, was originally a popular community local and later gained a reputation as a lively music venue.

However the murder of barmaid Janet Fleming in 2000 badly damaged its reputation and it never really recovered from that shock.

A new group of shops was built on the site of the former petrol station at the centre - and now residents of the area are looking forward to the arrival of their new supermarket early next year.