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Page last updated at 17:10 GMT, Wednesday, 21 July 2010 18:10 UK
Ipswich Civic Centre developer calls for investment
Architect's impression of a completed Westgate Centre
Architect's impression of a completed Westgate Centre

Developers hoping to build on the site of the former Civic Centre in Ipswich are calling for additional support from the council.

Turnstone Estates hopes to build shops and restaurants on the site but says out-of-town developments are being given more support.

"It's a real opportunity to bring that growth back to the town centre," said Chris Goldsmith, managing director.

"We're in discussions with big names who will give the town centre a boost."

The £50m development known as the Westgate Centre was given the green light in 2008 and the former Ipswich Borough Council headquarters has since been demolished.

Mr Goldsmith says two other buildings, the former crown court and the current police station, could potentially become part of the development.

The communal area in front of the former Civic Centre, with the police station to the right
The site in July 2010, with the police station to the right

"An opportunity has risen, with the police's decision to move to Landmark House, to extend the site which would allow us to better accommodate a supermarket type format on the site and therefore reverse the recent trend of pushing these supermarkets out to the periphery of the centre and therefore detracting from the town centre itself," said Mr Goldsmith.

"I don't think the [days of town centres] are over.

"It should be a very vibrant place and Ipswich has a good opportunity to win back trade from other competing town centres by actually supporting its town centre rather than just supporting development on the outskirts - granting consent for out of centre supermarkets and large format stores."

'Investment is there'

Councillor Richard Atkins, planning and economic development portfolio-holder, says Ipswich Borough Council is looking at ways to boost the town centre.

"There's been a massive investment in Ipswich, and particularly the university," he said.

"If you say 'well how does that help the retail?' we've got the Apple store coming in August and I don't think they'd be here if it wasn't for the university.

"I have to agree that there are [vacant shops] in the town centre, but we're not alone in that and are around the national average."

The Buttermarket is one of Ipswich's two large central shopping centres and contains several empty units, and is also currently minus its food court.

Councillor Atkins says a new scheme is helping to address this, whilst supporting new traders.

"We've got a tremendous venture started with the Buttermarket centre called Test Trading and we had about 70 different enquiries from people to try out their new retail outlet ideas - to go in there for just £20 a week for a six week period."

A new position is also being created with the sole aim of attracting business to the town.

"[We're recruiting an] inward investment officer, part funded by us and part funded by the Business Improvement District.

"We'll have one person absolutely dedicated to trying to find new retailers or new people to come into offices in Ipswich and to improve that situation.

"To get the word out that we are a fast growing and attractive town."

As for the Westgate Centre, Councillor Atkins is confident it will be a success.

"I do have to feel optimistic for Turnstone. Whilst the old Civic Centre site feels quite large, by the time you put the police station and court in with that it starts to become attractive to another category of retail clients.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity for Turnstone and I wish them well."

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