From the blog
Why The Cornhill Matters
By Paul Clement
The Ipswich Vision continues to deliver. Only one week after hearing the Chancellor announce £100 million for the proposed Wet Dock Crossing, allergist a further £3.3 million was unlocked for a redevelopment of the Cornhill Square.
The pace with which the Vision is transforming Ipswich is extraordinary. It is less than a year since the Ipswich Central Board released a first draft of a prospectus for change; and less still since our partners embraced the concept so enthusiastically. Of course, order we would all like it to go quicker still, bronchi but the pace is truly astonishing given the scale of our joint ambition.
The Vision area will now be bookended by two substantial developments. Between them, the Board is developing a long-term car parking strategy, is working on plans to further revitalise our retail offer, has committed to ensuring the development of 2,500 new homes, and has embarked on a new office corridor that will create new high-end jobs.
Yet, in the few days since the funding commitments from Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and now The New Anglia LEP, it is the proposal for the Cornhill that has created most interest so far. I think this is for a number of reasons. It is now four years since we invited Lord Stuart Rose to Ipswich and heard him describe the Cornhill as “the most depressing place he had ever seen”. Okay, he was probably exaggerating a little to trigger a response. But, as I would expect, respond we did. We didn’t do what most towns would have done and defend the status quo. Instead, we launched an international design competition and appointed Lord Rose to help us select a winning entry that demonstrated our ambition.
Four years has been too long to secure the project. But it is the best example of where partnership working has created the real change that our town centre has needed. We didn’t have that model until July last year with the creation of the Vision Board.
The LEP’s funding is not based upon a mere desire to improve the look and feel of the heart of the town, important though that is. It has been won over by the sound business argument that a relatively small investment in the most visible and heavily used area of public realm in the town would re-energise buildings around the Square, change perceptions of Ipswich, and bring new businesses and more jobs to the wider town centre.
The job of renovating the Cornhill is not done, therefore. It is only now beginning. The transformational potential of the project will spread far and wide. It is the surest sign yet that Ipswich is serious about a new and brighter future, brought about through a partnership committed to delivering change.
Finally, a thank-you to our Vision partners. Together we are already achieving so much. With so much still to do, though, we must keep up the pace. So, on to the next Vision priority…