Ipswich Central town centre BID plan aims for retail boost

Buttermarket, Ipswich
Image caption Planners said Ipswich town centre needs to integrate with the waterfront

Planners say they are confident they can attract big retail names to Ipswich town centre in a new five year plan.

Ipswich Central is asking firms to vote on accepting its Business Improvement District (BID) scheme.

The umbrella business organisation says its plan could deliver 500,000 sq ft (46,000 sq m) of new retail space.

Paul Clement, from Ipswich Central, said: "Our unique selling point is our waterfront but we have to integrate it with the 'old' town centre."

A BID is a zone where firms put money into a central fund which is then spent on economic development.

Ipswich Central said since the first five-year term started in 2007, it had overseen £3.3m of spending on things including improved streetscapes, street rangers, security systems and finding new retailers.

'Brighter and safer'

Steve Hardy, managing director at AXA, one of 700 town-centre businesses involved with Ipswich Central, said: "The town centre has improved immeasurably over this period.

"It is a brighter and safer place, largely thanks to the work of Ipswich Central."

Ipswich Central is now asking the 700 businesses to approve its next five-year strategy which it says would raise £3.75m.

Mr Clement, who is executive director of Ipswich Central, said: "The area that businesses want us to lead on is in marketing the town centre - not just to visitors and consumers but to new investment.

"We've got a whole host of name retailers who would take space here tomorrow morning but the space doesn't exist."

The areas Ipswich Central says can be redeveloped include the Tower Ramparts bus station and the site at Lower Brook Street occupied by the Archant local newspaper group.

The BID vote comes at a time when the Westfield shopping centre has opened at the Olympic site in London - less than an hour's train journey away from Ipswich.

Mr Clement said: "For years, we've been talking about Norwich as a better retail location than Ipswich and we've never really done anything about it.

"It's about regaining that sense of pride in Ipswich and not concerning ourselves too much with the opposition, but doing what we know is right for this place."

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