Ipswich Town Centre Master Plan Consultation Draft
The Society's Executive Committee has discussed this document at length and would like to make the following comments on behalf of its 1300 members. Our members' most frequent criticism is that they rarely go there because "there are not enough decent shops" and because of "their perceptions as to its attractions, cleanliness and general state of safety". This is particularly noticeable from those who live on the outskirts or in the wider county. Ultimately their unease can all be traced back to the current lack of a top class shopping offer in the town centre. This state of affairs is not limited to or controllable by Ipswich. It is obviously in part an outward sign of the economic problems that beset the developed world and partly due to the different ways the new technological world shops - by car in shopping centres or by internet. Thus it is heartening to read this blueprint to revive our town centre which is so optimistic in tone. It points out that
- The shopping offer is of low quality.
- National chains find the empty shops to be incompatible with modern trading.
- There are two empty sites zoned for retail that will probably never be developed for that.
- A third site, Archant's print works (i.e. EADT, Turret Lane) is available for development.
- The connection between the town centre and the Waterfront is tenuous.
- Thus the current east-west axis should change.
With this we largely agree.
The time has come to re-zone the whole of the so called Mint Quarter for housing. The Society has long favoured a town square of 3-4 storey town houses with parking beneath a new central public square. There could be some small specialist shops in streets leading to this development. However, we think the Civic Centre site should still be encouraged. If enlarged by the addition of the sites of the police station, the disused courts and the Paul's almshouses, it would be a very attractive site adjacent to the business area and main shopping streets. Already in place are a controlled car park and reasonable access from outside the centre. If this were to happen, the development of the north-south axis would be less logical.
We do support the concentration of all the bus services into one bus station, but at Tower Ramparts, not the Mint Quarter. Extending the Tower Ramparts shopping centre northwards over the bus station will only take place if a developer is prepared to invest. We would much prefer to see investment in the modernisation of the Buttermarket shopping centre and extending the retail offer southward, replacing the Old Cattle Market bus station with an avenue of arcaded shops with residential accommodation above towards the Archant site. We do not feel that there would be demand for shops on the Archant site, though flood avoidance plans may necessitate it. The Queen Street-St Nicholas Street- St Peter's Street axis has turned into a veritable engine room of successful food and specialist retailers and developing another street 200 metres to the east may be unwise.
Obviously we completely support a crossing of the Star Lane gyratory. Even at this stage it would be good to put forward the essential parameters for the crossing and some ideas on how they might be met.
Whilst Ipswich has many fine parks, it is noticeable there are none within the medieval centre. Thus we very strongly support the establishment of green public spaces in the town centre. If, as seems sensible, more people will live in the middle green spaces will be vital.
The Society is dismayed at the quality of the design and architecture of recent renovation and new builds. It is vital that we achieve better in the future than we have in the last twenty years. We must all work together to ensure that poor buildings are not allowed in Ipswich!
In summary, we admire this forward thinking document and hope which such a plan brings, even if we may disagree on some of the details. Ultimately, however, it will depend on the financial state of the UK and the economic activity of Ipswich and East Suffolk. The land is largely privately owned and hence the major decisions are out of our hands. We can improve our chances by planning positively in every way and increasing footfall by the development of entertainment, cultural and other attractions which so far Ipswich has not yet achieved.