Waitrose's plans for Ipswich Corn Exchange criticised

Ipswich Corn Exchange
Image caption The proposed store would have its entrance on Princes Street

Arts groups are opposing a supermarket's plan to move into an Ipswich entertainment complex.

Campaigners have started a petition against a proposal to open a Waitrose store in the Corn Exchange, which is owned by Ipswich Borough Council.

Opponents say it will mean too much space is lost and a drop-in cafe would be better.

The council said it is still talking to Waitrose and no formal planning application has been submitted.

The proposal, which began during the previous Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration at the council, is for a convenience store in the area currently occupied by Gatsby's Bar.

It would also take over the Robert Cross Hall up to the partition it shares with the Limelight Bar.

'Dead space'

Andrew Cann, a former Liberal Democrat councillor, said they wanted to bring in revenue and use "dead space".

"[We were saying] we're committed to the film theatre and Grand Hall - why don't we see if a restaurant or high-end shop wants to come in?" he said.

"I would love to have seen a cafe, restaurant or bar, but nobody came forward.

"The council runs housing benefit and the bins, but we don't run restaurants and I can't think of a commercially successful council-run one anywhere."

Image caption Andrew Clarke is chairman of the volunteer-run Ipswich Film Theatre

Professor Chris Green, chairman of Ipswich Arts Association, has conducted at concerts in the Grand Hall for more than 30 years.

He said: "There's an issue about the long-term consequences for the Corn Exchange, which is already under-utilised and I suspect it will be even more under-utilised as a result of this.

"There has been a lack of vision and the cultural strategy by the previous administration showed that."

'Sound leakage'

One of Ipswich Film Theatre's two screens is directly beneath the proposed shop and the volunteers who run the cinema would expect it to close for a month if a shop moves in.

Andrew Clarke, Ipswich Film Theatre trustee, said he has longer-term concerns: "Trolleys crashing about and the hum of refrigeration units could be a persistent and annoying problem.

"We would hope that Ipswich Borough Council would help by making sound-proofing part of any planning conditions."

Waitrose spokesman James Armstrong said discussions were ongoing: "We would not wish to cause any inconvenience to any business and every effort will be made to minimise any disruption.

"We want to make a positive contribution, not only through new jobs and supporting local projects, but to play our part in attracting shoppers to the town."

Labour regained control of the council in May.

Councillor Bryony Rudkin, portfolio holder for culture, said: "The new administration has started talking to Ipswich residents, users of the Corn Exchange/Town Hall and the Film Theatre Trust in particular about their expectations and aspirations.

"We are very aware of all the arts, music and other culture groups that need space of an appropriate size and quality in which to perform."

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