Suffolk

Ipswich town centre future a local election topic

Cornhill Ipswich Image copyright Ipswich Borough Council
Image caption The Cornhill in Ipswich will have a water feature and sculpture

The future of Ipswich town centre is one of the big issues in the forthcoming local council elections.

The economic downturn saw some stores close and former Marks & Spencer boss Lord Rose labelled parts of it as "a bit shabby".

Efforts have been made to improve the town centre offer and a £3m scheme is under way to rejuvenate the Cornhill, with a water feature and sculptures.

The work is due to be completed before the end of 2018.

Image copyright Hamish Griffin/Georgraph
Image caption Ipswich Market has been moved while the Cornhill is redeveloped

David Ellesmere, leader of the Labour-controlled council, said: "The borough council is doing a huge amount of investing in the town centre. We have currently got a new multi-storey car park in Crown Street nearing completion and also work at the Cornhill and work on the entrance to the waterfront."

He said said new shops such as Jack Wills had opened up in the town and pointed to new restaurants coming to the town as part of the redevelopment of the Buttermarket shopping centre.

He said the café firm Pret a Manger was opening up in the old Grimwades tailoring businesses property, adjacent to the Cornhill, while the nearby former Post Office building is expected to be occupied soon.

Ian Fisher, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: "I would like to see a rethink of what we do in town centre. Our aim is to have a town centre with more cultural centres and family entertainment.

"We are not going to compete with nearby retail centres. We will not draw shoppers away from Norwich, but we can attract people to our town centre for culture and entertainment - such a visitor centres.

"We want to make Ipswich the place to go to for entertainment."

Inga Lockington, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said town centre shops have been hit by the growth in internet shopping.

Image copyright Ipswich Borough Council
Image caption Work has started on a scheme to improve the Cornhill

She said she was concerned that the building work on the Cornhill has meant "people don't want to go into the town centre" and may "get into the habit of shopping somewhere else".

Ms Lockington said she hoped the opening of the Crown Street car park would help encourage people back into the town centre.

Tony Gould, chairman of UK Independence Party in Ipswich, said to boost numbers in the town he would "reduce the parking charges to zero".

"I would also encourage new shops to come into Ipswich with subsidies for the first year for example," he said.

He also said the council should look how space above shops could be used for flats to bring people into the town centre.

Andy Patmore, a spokesman for the Ipswich Green Party, said: "Motorists would surely prefer not to spend their time sitting in traffic but rather have a more convenient and cost-effective alternative to jumping into their cars.

"A properly integrated public transport system, safer cycle paths without potholes, safe cycle parks and provisions for those who may only travel into the town centre infrequently would go a long way to facilitate this."

He added: "Small shops and businesses just don't have the support that they need in order to flourish and we are left with either empty shops or large corporate stores."

Ipswich Borough Council has 16 of its seats up for election. Polls open between 07:00 BST and 22:00 BST on 3 May.

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