Regeneration & Inward Investment: the Ipswich Vision
The plan is to create the UK’s first truly ‘connected town centre’, a progression of the internationally recognised model known as the ‘15-minute city’, revitalised by scientist and university professor, Carlos Moreno.
For it to work, there will need to be a significant growth in the number of people living in the town centre.
So commitments have been made to facilitate new housing development on unused sites, as well as converting redundant buildings and empty upper floors in the town centre into homes. Alongside this, and to enable more urban living, the plan is to introduce amenities and attractions that will encourage people to live and stay locally. These might include schools and educational facilities, a music venue, an outdoor gym, and more green areas, cycling and walking routes.
The plan is to also involve neighbourhood shopping parades such as Norwich Road, as a realisation that new forms of hybrid working will lead to a greater dependency upon local amenities. It also develops the town centre’s role as a place to live for commuters to London who will increasingly work more from home, and as a destination for people staying locally and choosing Ipswich and Suffolk as a place to visit.
A bold plan for a post COVID world
Terry Baxter is Chair of Ipswich Central and is in no doubt that the Vision is ambitious.
“This is a bold plan which recognises that in the new, post-covid world, our town centre will need to rely less upon retail and develop a new purpose as a place to live and visit. This new strategy for Ipswich commits to many more people living centrally and having around them all that they will need to live their lives locally.
“It is exceptionally ambitious and demonstrates that, once again, we are ahead of the game. Not only have all partners worked hard with us to develop the strategy, but we also have £25 million from the government’s Town Fund to help kick-start the revival.”
So, what are the things we can hope to see when looking at Ipswich in the near future?
We can expect to see progression made on initial steps already taken towards a ‘Connected Town Centre’. With an impetus that relies less on retail spaces and turns towards creating social spaces, the aim is to reconfigure the town centre around linkages between Christchurch Park, Ipswich railway station, and the Waterfront. The idea is that it will take around 15-minutes to walk or cycle between the three points giving residents and visitors easy access to everything they need to live, work and play. Key aspects will be more public spaces in which to meet, gather and exercise, more green areas, more walking and cycling facilities, and less dependency upon the car.
A digital town centre
Another initiative which is well in hand is the creation of a digital town centre. Digital infrastructure will be set up offering free public wi-fi and 4G/5G technology. People will be able to access on-line information, make reservations and pre-book tickets and venues. When in town, the platform will link seamlessly to provide a raft of information services including locational information, in-store loyalty programmes, ‘try-before-you-buy’ shopping experiences, a host of digital walking trails and augmented reality experiences. The platform will also link to digital screens throughout the town centre, including a giant screen that will show video clips, presentations, events and promotions.
What are the features of a connected town centre?
- Re-thinking of town centres as neighbourhoods.
- High density and varied residential accommodation.
- Flexible workspaces.
- Ability to convert and introduce new uses.
- Convenience to and from all requisite facilities and amenities (e.g., shops, health centres, fresh food, arts, culture, education, libraries, schools, churches, social clubs, youth centres, markets etc. etc.)
- Prioritisation for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Green and open spaces.
- Multifunctional spaces and buildings.
- Digitalisation and teleworking.
What differences will this make to Ipswich?
- More people using the town centre more often and for longer.
- Greater sense of community.
- Many more people living in the town centre.
- More demand from a wider range of businesses and providers to locate close to the town centre community.
- New employment opportunities.
- Vacant sites, buildings and upper floors made available for residential conversion.
- Safer places.
- More things to do.
- Development of a 24/7 economy.
- Better and more intensive use of technology.
- More people buying from local independent businesses.
- The 15-minute drive-time catchment developed as the primary visitor audience and from which new residents will be attracted.
- A more attractive and convenient place for people to visit and stay (e.g., staycations).
Professor Dave Muller is Chair of the All About Ipswich destination management organisation. He added:
“The leisure, entertainment and hospitality sectors have been hard hit by the pandemic. But, as businesses in and around the town start to reopen, they will recognise that this plan will help to define Ipswich as an accessible, convenient and connected place to visit and stay.”
Full details of the strategy can be found at ipswichvision.co.uk
Image credit to www.hannahedwardsillustration.com