Our response to Ipswich Borough Council’s Public Realm scheme

4th March 2019

Ipswich Borough Council have been leading on a consultation for improvements to streetscape and the public realm. The principle has the full approval of the Vision Board, particularly since there is a commitment to a budget of circa £1m a year for the next 3-years to commence the improvements on the basis of priorities.

The consultation closed this week and I wanted to outline our response. Overall, we remain exceptionally supportive of the principles and grateful to the Ipswich Borough for initiating this.

We have expressed our priority as being to progress the core objective of the Vision – that of ‘turning our town around’ by prioritising north-south routes and better linking the main commercial and retail core with the Waterfront. Furthermore, we have asked the Council to approve ambitious schemes that have the ability to act as areas of interest in their own right. Finally, we have asked the Council to utilise improvements to enhance Ipswich’s reputation as a cultural hub.

The primary objective of such proposed improvements must be to provide a catalyst for further development and investment in the surrounding areas. In our view, therefore, the priority schemes, subject to the caveats expressed, must be:

Princes Street Bridge – investment could create a more welcoming approach for visitors arriving at the rail station. However, work should only be carried out in conjunction with a release of a Riverside Walk from Princes Street to the Waterfront.

Arras Square – this could become a viable second public square (to Cornhill) but should only be undertaken when (a) traffic issues (e.g. deliveries, illegal parking etc.) can be overcome, (b) a management regime is in place for the area, including a funded enlivenment programme, and (c) the investment is combined with redevelopment of the former BHS store to include active frontage to the Square.

Lloyds Avenue – a scheme in this location could create an exciting gateway to the heart of the town centre (from Crown Car Park to Cornhill Square, via Lloyds Arch). This has the capability to bring about the greatest revitalisation of any suggested project, through third-party redevelopment and investment. A scheme here should aim to reposition the existing taxi rank, reallocate deliveries/collections, re-open the frontage of the existing Debenhams store and reanimate covered windows, identify opportunities for residential development at 1st floor level and above, potentially create kiosk units to the flank wall of the existing Mecca bingo hall, and utilise blank wall space for signage, lighting and/or features.

We would be happy to discuss our response and will keep you updated as the programme develops further.

Terry Baxter, Chair of Ipswich Central