Ipswich council vote: Town centre concerns dominate election

Ipswich town centre Ipswich Borough Council is looking at improving the look of the Cornhill in Ipswich

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In Ipswich improving the town centre has become a key local election issue with residents having seen a number of high profile shops close over the last 10 years.

In 2005 it lost one of its flagship department stores Allders - a key part of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, said the recession was hitting towns and cities across the UK.

Mr Clement, of Ipswich Central, which represents 700 businesses, said: "Local authorities need to show leadership to show entrepreneurs they are prepared to work with them.

"Town centres really matter, they give people a sense of pride and identity."

Civic Centre site, Ipswich The Civic Centre site has been empty since the council's former office block was pulled down

A third of seats are up for election in the county town of Suffolk.

Councillor John Cook, Labour candidate for Alexandra ward, said the Labour-run council "has been doing a lot to encourage people into the town".

He said the council's Quids In scheme encourages bus use - the scheme sees Ipswich Buses charge a maximum fare of £1 on all Ipswich town services into central Ipswich from 15:00 Monday to Friday.

Mr Cook said it was vital to find ways to fill empty shops in the town centre. "We need to encourage landlords to charge more realistic rents on vacant properties," he said.

Councillor Nadia Cenci, Conservative candidate for the Stoke Park ward, said: "I think one of the main things is to connect up the town centre with the Waterfront. I was with my cousin from Italy and she loved the Waterfront but people feel it is a long way to walk to the centre."

She said people needed to think up creative ways to make the link between the Waterfront and the centre more friendly to pedestrians.

"We need to get business leaders together and ask them what needs to happen. Ipswich is actually nicer than people give it credit for, we need to work on the brand," she added.

Buttermarket, Ipswich Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, says Ipswich has weathered the recession better than many other towns and cities

Councillor Inga Lockington, Lib Dem candidate for St Margaret's ward, said the town centre's problems were partly due to "the down turn in the economy meaning people have less to spend".

"What is needed is a good department store. The only John Lewis store (for furniture) is on the outskirts of Ipswich, so people go outside Ipswich and avoid paying to park," she said.

She said one "excellent idea" being considered to boost the number of people coming into the town centre would be to put a cinema into the Buttermarket shopping centre.

Quality shops call

James Crossley, UK Independence Party candidate for the Whitehouse ward, said: "The problem with Ipswich town centre is that it is full of pound shops and charity shops."

"We need to attract more businesses into the centre of Ipswich," he said.

Mr Crossley said the siting of key large stores on the outskirts of the town "detracts from the centre of Ipswich. I think that is a major problem".

Barry Broom, the Green Party candidate for St John's ward, said what was needed in Ipswich were "some good quality shops".

"There are a lot of charity shops at the moment taking space up in the high street," he said.

Mr Broom said he was concerned at the number of high profile stores being given permission on the outskirts of the town.

Other candidates standing in the election for Ipswich Borough Council can be found on the council website.

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