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Bringing housing back into the high street

We are calling for unused floor space in Ipswich town centre to be converted into residential properties.

The Ipswich Vision originally called for 2,000 new homes in the heart of the town centre; however Ipswich Central believes that this number should, and could, be doubled.

Nationally the expectations of consumers, residents and visitors are changing exponentially. A raft of external factors such as out-of-town retail and mobile commerce are already altering the face of the high street with household names disappearing daily across the UK. £27 billion per annum is now spent via mobile commerce and over 76% of holidays are booked online; an activity that was always carried out on the high street, which is no longer needed in the same way. To back this up, there were 38 large retail Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) in 2018 and 29 in 2019; all which are affecting how the high street operates.

Therefore repurposing old retail floor space, which sits above our shops and cafes, provides a great opportunity to bring a new community into our town centre with more footfall, dwell time and spending; just in a different way than over the past thirty years. New apartments grace the transforming waterfront but now is the time to revitalise the high street with some creative thinking about repurposing obsolete retail space. Ipswich Central currently predicts that approximately 100 people living in the core retail area of the town centre; which demonstrates a huge opportunity.

This has been demonstrated to work elsewhere.

There has been a dramatic shift over the past decade, especially in the north of England of people moving back into their town and city centres creating an urban renaissance and a shift in how people want to live.

At street level there are cafes, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and estate agents nestling together and above people are living in modern and convenient accommodation at the very heart of town life. Since the start of the 21st century the population of many town and city centres has doubled, breathing new life into their high streets with new audiences and footfall and creating new opportunities for other businesses to thrive.

Another benefit of repurposing high street properties for residential use is the environmental impact.

People moving into the town centre reduces the need to build new housing estates on the outskirts of Ipswich that encroach on the surrounding countryside. Additionally, town centre living promotes a greener way of living by removing the dependency on the car and by encouraging the use of public transport; helping to reduce CO2 emissions.

The recent Centre for Cities Outlook 2020 report has highlighted that Ipswich is the centre with the lowest housing stock growth with only 140 new homes from 2017 to 2018. This creates a great opportunity for young people and commuters; despite house prices in Ipswich being the 3rd highest house price growth from 2017 to 2018, prices are still reasonable.

Terry Baxter, Chair of Ipswich Central, says:The shape of our high street is changing and they are changing across the country, therefore we need to rethink our town centre. Our proposal to create up to 4,000 new homes in the town centre would help to bring new life into the heart of Ipswich; making use of empty units, bringing community back to the high street, creating a greener way of living and giving new opportunities for our businesses.”

“We’re calling for all of our Ipswich Vision partners to commit to this ambitious campaign to have more people living directly in our town.”

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