Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

Cornhill re-development catalyst for Ipswich renewal?


Cornhill: It's seen better days

Cornhill: It’s seen better days

I recently walked through Ipswich town centre with my parents and I was pleased by how much “good” I could point out. We walked from Christchurch Park through to the Novotel roundabout (we had eaten a couple of nights before on the Waterfront) and during this short walk I first pointed out the map-based monoliths and associated signposts. These were implemented by the last Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition at the Borough Council, spearheaded by my wife (can’t forget that!) Cllr Tanya Maclure – Labour were opposed to the scheme. My parents replied they had used them a few times to help them navigate the town centre when my wife and I were not around. They also recalled they were given a map of the town centre by their hotel receptionist (part of the Council’s signposting scheme). All good stuff.

Ipswich potential is not far below the surface

Ipswich potential is not far below the surface

We quickly darted past Carr Street (undoubtedly a blot on the town centre landscape) and headed for Buttermarket where we ended up at Giles Circus, transformed under the previous Tory-led council (again Tanya was heavily involved!) to make it more pedestrian friendly and to make it look aesthetically pleasing –  Labour were opposed to this economic growth scheme as well. Waitrose, happily, were not. They set-up a Little Waitrose shop shortly after the renewed Giles Circus was completed and have been trading since.

We didn’t walk across the Cornhill, which was a shame because the market wasn’t operating that day. But I hope when my mother and father visit next time, Ipswich Borough Council will be getting on with redesigning the Cornhill to make use of this fantastic space. This was the brainchild of Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose, who when speaking at the second Beacon Town Conference in Ipswich last September, challenged civic leaders to do something with the Cornhill and get rid of the tatty market. Cllr Ellesmere, being the schoolboy politician he is, glowed and jumped up and down when Sir Stuart made his recommendation. His partner, Cllr Carole Jones was less impressed and suggested in front of Sir Stuart Ipswich was “fine” and he “just didn’t know it well enough” – by all accounts her intervention was a touch embarrassing, but then when did Labour politicians get business and enterprise?

But Sir Stuart is a wily operator and knew his very public recommendation would have to be taken up. So Ipswich Borough Council over the last year put out to tender proposals for a re-designed Cornhill. The proposals are now in and have been whittled down (not sure how this was done and using which process – hopefully it was councillor not officer-led) to five competitors for public consultation. The architects’ designs can be viewed at the Town Hall or online (naturally) at Sir Stuart set an original budget of £200,000 to make the changes but local government being local government the budget has increased to £3 Million (which will come from various tax payer funded pots). To be fair even Sir Stuart’s estimate was somewhat unrealistic for a town square redevelopment but for £3 Million I expect a very good result indeed!

My choice for the Cornhill renewal

Concept B: My choice for the Cornhill renewal

I prefer Concept A or B and at a push I’d probably choose B. Concept C looks like the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey so I’ll pass on that one!

However, I’m not sure what Lloyds Bank think of their front door being turned into on-street cafe in Concept A and B?

I’d recommend Ipswich residents reading this to go to the Council website and choose your favourite design. This is a great initiative kicked off by Sir Stuart and once implemented will boost our town centre, which means more people with spending money and more people with money leads to better shops and places to visit. This is what the Council is here for in my view: create the environment for economic growth, then get out of the way and let private business and enterprise do the rest.

Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

2 thoughts on “Cornhill re-development catalyst for Ipswich renewal?

  1. I would really REALLY recommend people go to the actual exhibition in the Town Hall. It seems IBC couldn’t be bothered to load all the context boards, so online you have the barest detail. The context boards really help flesh out the design and make it much clearer what each is about.

  2. The council administration has turned the town soulless over the last 20 years… We are always compared to Cambridge and Norwich… what do they have what we don’t (but we did once have)?

    Yes, an airport… If you want big business you need a small airport – absolute fact and one of the basic rules in city planning. They took our airport away, and wasn’t due to lack of use… they decided the space would be better for housing… like everywhere… the issue is employment was falling, but creating more homes? I assume this was to increase revenue from council tax rather than business rates (or a fair mixture of both).

    There is no sign of a community. So many ‘foreigners’… we have an influx of polish and in particular various asian communites that have sprung up, some here short term others residing here… you see them in the town… but they don’t fit in… Everyone loves a multi-cultural society, but the carnival is no more, limited art events exist (IP Art etc) but neither involves integration… both existing residents (of all races) and the new residents are missing out.

    The heart of the town is dominated by a market – most recreational areas are deep within estates or on the outskirts of the town (most outside borough boundary).

    Everyone loves Ipswich because Ipswich Star ran a “I Love Ipswich” campaign… except regardless of the logo on back of bus tickets etc. everyone hates it, moral is at an all time low and speak to anyone in the town you are 9 times out of 10 likely to receive a negative remark about the town (i.e. “its a sh*t hole” or “cesspit”)

    The council snubs residents and businesses feedback (Ipswich Central delegated the business side) for a so-called retail guru who thought £200k was a big enough budget to redevelop the cornhill?! It cost over 3 times that for Giles Circus…

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