Zara, Superdry and Next among stores queuing up to come to revamped Ipswich Cornhill

The revamped Cornhill should encourage more retailers.

The revamped Cornhill should encourage more retailers. - Credit: Archant

A final decision to start work on Ipswich Cornhill could spark a rush by some of Britain’s best-known retailers to secure a lucrative site in the heart of the town.

Shoppers have been calling for years for big names like Zara, Superdry and Urban Outfitters to come to the town centre – and the search for new retail sites stepped up a gear after Next moved out of its Westgate Street store last year.

It is understood many retailers are keen to come to Ipswich – but they only want “big box” units in the heart of the town, which they see as in the immediate Cornhill area between Marks and Spencer in Westgate Street and the Tavern Street/Upper Brook Street junction.

Hopes of attracting fashion stores to Upper Brook Street following the sale of the freehold of many units at an auction tomorrow do not look likely to come to fruition because fashion stores like to be near each other so people can compare different offers.

However the Upper Brook Street area is seen as a prime candidate to attract non-fashion stores because it will be very near car parks for people buying bulky goods.

Household and electrical stores like Clas Ohlson and Currys Digital are likely to be targeted by the new owner of these stores’ freeholds if they want a change of use at the end of the current leases.

The two major opportunities in the Cornhill are the former Grimwades store which has only been sporadically occupied since Clinton Cards pulled out in 2012, and the old Post Office building which has been occupied by Lloyds Bank since the early 1990s.

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Its lease is coming up in just over two years’ time and it is expected this will not be renewed after the company invested heavily in upgrading its branch on the other side of the road two years ago.

The old Post Office building is owned by the borough. Council leader David Ellesmere said it was clear from what he had heard from retailers that they were looking for units near to the Cornhill.

He said: “There are problems for retailers with the old Post Office building because of the steps at the main entrance.

“I don’t think that would be such an issue for a restaurant or cafe – but there are issues for the major retailers we have spoken to.”

The council was working with Ipswich Vision partners to try to identify potential sites in the area and there were possibilities that could emerge in the future.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he felt there was a change in attitude coming from some retailers to the town – if the site was right.

He said: “There are some big names who had always rejected the idea of coming to Ipswich but they are now starting to think again. But they want to be in the right place, like the Cornhill area.”

The Ipswich Vision partners are due to hear an update on the town’s development at a board meeting later this week.

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