In the short space of time since the last Newsletter – and with Covid-19 – things have slowed down. Several of the longer term projects have completed or are nearly there.

The Mark 2* Cornhill completed in August as planned, with modified paving and steps, additional handrails and permanent bespoke planters built into the steps and paving which include lighting. The fountains have been serviced and are on most of the time. They are sometimes turned off when it is breezy so as not to spray passers-by. The bases of the trees have been replaced with metal surrounds topped with resin which should no longer sink.  There do not seem to have been the negative comments there were when the project was originally opened in 2018. The additional handrails still have to be fitted to the Town Hall steps. We won't really see what the finished scheme looks like until the scaffolding is removed from the old Post Office. [*or 3 or 4? – Ed.]

Work continues on both the old Post Office on Cornhill, and the former Burtons/Dorothy Perkins building which is being restored and refurbished ready for Diechmann fashion footwear to move in. The scaffolding was removed from the Burtons building on 11 September.  Both projects should complete before Christmas 2020.

The Farmers’ Market on Cornhill, which stopped for lockdown, is back and is held on the first Sunday of each month unless circumstances change.

The refurbished Children’s playground in Christchurch park has been completed.  Within minutes of it being reopened it was packed with excited children. With a Castle style climbing frame and slides as the central feature there are many other play facilities including swings of various types and roundabouts, see-saws, a variety of climbing-frames and other activity structures. There is plenty of seating around for parents.

The future Gecko theatre on St Peters Dock

It was reported in the Ipswich Star on 5 August that the former Burtons building on St Peters Wharf on Ipswich Waterfront has been awarded a £3m grant from central government under a scheme to invest in 'shovel-ready' local projects in England to aid economic recovery in response to the Covid-19 crisis.  This is on condition that the building work is completed by April 2022. The Ipswich Star reported that ‘Amit Lahav, artistic director of Gecko, said that the £3m grant will provide finance to power the project forward. He said that with £499,999 from the Arts Council, awarded last November, they are in a position to start work on the Gecko Creation Space almost immediately and are looking to be ready to move in by Christmas 2021. He said that when the work is complete Ipswich will be home to one of the most extensive, up-to-date rehearsal and making facilities in the UK.’

The New Wolsey Theatre Pavilion and concourse project, which includes a refurbishment of the theatre foyer and cafe, has continued to progress. As I write the front overhangs on the golden roof are being added to the building and men working on the site said they hope to complete the building work by the end of September 2020.

The building work on The Hold on the University of Suffolk Campus on Fore Street is complete and fitting out is in progress. The building will have to ‘dry out’ for several months before the Suffolk Records can be transferred to the building. The main reception and foyer section which includes a cafe and an exhibitions area should be opened to the public in August.

Work to save 4, College Street opposite the Wolsey Gate, an historic merchant house on Ipswich Waterfront, can begin after securing planning permission for work to take it off the ‘at risk’ register. The council’s planning committee gave approval at its meeting on 27th August for the work, which will also see the wall come down around the Waterfront gateway of the former St Peter’s Warehouse to open up views of the docks.

The former Botwoods garage on Princes Street, until recently ‘Landspeed’, has been demolished. The plan is to eventually build an office block on the site, but current circumstances mean this will not happen for sometime. As the town is quieter at the moment due to Covid-19, instead of turning the site into a temporary car park the site will just be tidied up saving money in these uncertain times. There are plans to build a hotel on the adjoining site where the Drum and Monkey stood which is currently a temporary car park and further plans to build a seven storey car park on the former Livestock Market site off Portman Road behind these two sites.

Menkind used to have a shop in the Accessorize unit in Tavern Street and are advertising for staff for what is described as a temporary concession outlet within Debenhams. Possibly a Christmas pop-up store, Menkind was very popular when it was in Ipswich before so maybe this will be longer term if it is successful.  This would undoubtedly help  to increase the footfall within Debenhams over Christmas, depending on the latest Covid-19 rules at the time.

Above: Lloyds Avenue; below: Tacket Street

Ma Belle Present, a cards, stationery and gifts shop recently opened at the top end of Lloyds Avenue in the unit formerly occupied by Attitude.

The proprietor of the former Casablanca Restaurant in Tacket Street (which recently closed) is taking a new tack and converting the unit into a convenience store called Gateway Continental and a Lebanese Take Away called Ali Shi.

To beat Covid-19 the Cult café bar on Orwell Quay has created an outside bar using a souped-up shipping container and has also created additional outside seating with the clever use of pallets.  This is proving very popular.  When the weather is not so good you can go inside with the usual distancing and Track and Trace.  Numbers inside are limited.  All the cafes and bars on Ipswich Waterfront are currently open with the usual Covid-19 rules applying at the the time.

The Black Horse pub in Black Horse Lane has reopened, with new tenants James Keegan and his stepdad, Vince Gorman. They are holding wide-ranging live music gigs with regular music nights on Saturdays. The numbers have to be limited because of social distancing and Track- and-trace applies. They hope to eventually start serving food as well.

Tim Leggett

Next article