As I write the Christmas tree is up and lit on the Cornhill, the Christmas lights are on all around the town centre. With the turkey season imminent, bird ’flu has returned and now the Omicrom variant of Coronavirus has hit the UK. In the words of Mark Twain (and others), ‘Life is just one damn thing after another’ – but life must go on.


New town centre shops

Shops and restaurants continue to come and go and, sadly, SWAROVSKI Jewellery has closed its small shop in Butter Market, but more have opened – even if some only temporarily for the Christmas season.

* BAR TWENTY ONE has opened in the empty Degero unit in St Nicholas Street.

* BARNARDO'S has opened a shop, in ‘Sailmakers' filling the empty Quiz unit. The charity currently has an agreement for one year to see how it goes.

* THE MILITARY UNIT clothing shop has also opened in ‘Sailmakers’ filling the empty Bags-4-U unit. A two month experimental period with a view to extending if it proves popular.

* CASH EXCHANGE has filled the long empty Mattress Man unit in Upper Brook Street having moved from its smaller shop in Tacket Street with a lower footfall. The vacated unit is already taken by another new shop opening soon.

* GEEK RETREAT has also opened its game shop and café in the former Suffolk Age UK unit in Upper Brook Street which is proving very popular.

* The long-awaited VIETNAMESE FOOD SHOP opened in Carr Street filling the former British Heart Foundation unit. It has since closed.

* MICROSHOPS have continued to fill their units in the former Peacocks with phase two now being prepared. Father Christmas had his grotto in the Christmas Fayre in Microshops.

* SPOON World Buffet and Bar has reopened in St Matthews Street after being closed for over a year due to Covid – and is attracting queues at lunchtime.

* Café 43 in Carr Street has become GEO IPSWICH CAFE.

* ASCENSION AQUATICS has opened in the former Fun and Funky in Orwell Place.

* CALENDER CLUB has returned to Westgate Street for the Christmas season after missing out last year.

* A pop-up wristwatch shop occupied the former HOTTER unit in Tavern Street for a month and as soon as that went a pop-up clothing shop moved in.


Ongoing projects

* At long last work is in progress restoring the long neglected Grade II Listed former merchant house at 4 COLLEGE STREET, currently surrounded by scaffolding. Potential occupants are already showing interest in filling the building. Ipswich Borough Council bought the building as part of a land deal in 2016 at the gateway to the Waterfront. [See Editorial page for photograph.]

* Work by Carter continues on the old Princes Street Fire Station to enlarge it and convert it into a ‘BLUE LIGHT HUB’ where the fire, police and ambulance stations will share the town centre site. One of the firefighters said he believes they will now have a traditional ‘firefighters' pole’ from the rest area to the garage as the new recreation area is being constructed above the garage. The build cost is reported to have increased from £4.1 million to £8.7 million with some additional structural alterations required at the site, Covid problems and the cost of securing materials.

* The BROOMHILL LIDO restoration has been delayed due to Covid. Anthony Cawley, director of operations at Fusion Lifestyle, said the organisation continued ‘to be fully committed to the redevelopment of Broomhill Lido and we are currently working with all relevant stakeholders to agree next steps’.

* Work has started to fit out THE BOTANIST restaurant in the old Post Office on Cornhill which, it is hoped, will open in the Spring of 2022.

* Work continues on the BUTTERMARKET CENTRE. It has been slow, but gradually it is getting there. The new viewing window on the first floor overlooking the glass dome area was revealed in early December. New wall lights and flooring are complete whilst painting and tiling continues and the new Butter Market entrance is yet to be constructed.

* The scaffolding has gone from the new Grimwade Street council flats and most agree they are an improvement to the area.

* Burney Group, the developer behind a new 100-bed hotel in Ipswich has secured a £7.4m loan to help fund the project. The new TRAVELODGE on Russell Road close to Endeavour House and the ITFC stadium will include 60 parking spaces and it is hoped that construction work will start in 2022.

* Work is in progress on the new McCARTHY & STONE assisted living complex on the former Archant Newspapers site in Lower Brook Street.

* After years of discussion, work has started on the first phase of the IPSWICH GARDEN SUBURB (Northern Fringe) housing development known as HENLEY GATE. Crest Nicholson was given planning permission to build the first 130 homes.

* Work continues on the HOPE CENTRE in the old Odeon on Majors Corner.

* Flats for the disabled are taking shape on the former car park in Handford Road.

* The BHS site, reported as acquired by the Mike Ashley retail group, is still at a stand still. It would make a huge difference to the town centre if this project to open five of the groups brands including SPORTS DIRECT and GAME in the building was to take shape.

* The proposed HONEY+HARVEY premises in Giles Circus with ‘coming soon’ signs still remains dormant. Again this would be a welcome addition to the town. Let's hope 2022 sees both these projects come to fruition.

* Work repaving the WATERFRONT to remove the parking spaces is all but complete. The paving has been done well and includes removing the tarmac scars from the compass point. Bollards are on order and, when installed, the red and white barriers can be removed leaving a wide, level pavement for pedestrians.

*Long-neglected, the former ALEXANDRIA HAIR ARTISTRY in St. Margarets Street is being converted into flats with commercial premises on the ground floor.  This should help tidy up this corner of Ipswich where the adjoining buildings have recently been renovated. [See Editorial page for photograph.]


Proposed projects

* The BOOM BATTLE BAR application signs remain in the window of the former Coast to Coast in the Butter Market. Their website still says ‘Ipswich Coming Soon’ so we await progress.

* We expect a branch of BURGER AMOUR to open in the former Little Waitrose site in the Corn Exchange in 2022 whilst, round the corner, the Ipswich Film Theatre has rebranded itself as the KING STREET CINEMA.

* The TOLLY COBBOLD BREWERY has just been sold for a reported £475,000. Previous owners’ plans have fallen through so let's hope the new owners are more successful in making something of this historic building.

* COSTA coffee is to open an outlet on Ipswich Station.

* Adugs Food Ltd has applied for a liquor licence for the former Co-op in Handford Road to become a European food and drink shop. There has been local opposition.

* BREWDOG is still hoping to completely refit the former La Tour Café and to open a bar there, despite local opposition.

* The UNITARIAN MEETING HOUSE RESTORATION is complete and it has just been given an Award of Distinction in the 2021 Ipswich Society Awards (see p. 18).

Tim Leggett

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