Covid: Ipswich town centre shops' reopening 'incredible'

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image captionAbout 200 people queued outside Ipswich's Primark store

The number of shoppers flocking to a town centre on the first day many retailers were allowed to reopen has been "absolutely incredible", a local business group said.

Hundreds have been queuing outside Primark and Debenhams in Ipswich.

Sophie Alexander-Parker, from Ipswich Central, the Business Improvement District (Bid) organisation, said the last year had been "horrendous".

"We do not need another lockdown," she added.

"It's been a horrendous year, last few months, for all business, all members of the public - but to see the town centre like this today is absolutely incredible.

"High streets have been changing for a long time - even before Covid."

Covid-19 restrictions have been eased, meaning non-essential shops, hairdressers, beauty salons and pub gardens have been able to reopen in England for the first time since the start of January.

image captionThe queue outside Debenhams' closing down sale stretched around the corner and up Lloyds Avenue

A queue of people outside the town's Debenhams could be seen snaking up the hill.

Speaking about the closure of one of the town's largest remaining department stores, Ms Alexander-Parker admitted it would be a "huge space" to fill, but Ipswich Central was hoping it would become a "mixed use" unit - with some office space or perhaps residential use.

"In high streets - especially Ipswich - we do not need another lockdown, so bringing people in, being safe, looking after each other and being respectful - but equally, supporting the local business community, is so important," she added.

Earlier this year, the Bid organisation announced proposals to make Ipswich the UK's first "15-minute" town.

The concept would reshape the town centre as a leisure, recreation and visitor destination as well as one for shopping.

The idea aimed to focus on the town's waterfront, and take advantage of other key features, including its railway station, central park and square, which are are all within a quarter-hour walk of each other.

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