Ipswich Cornhill: Public Consultation with Ipswich Society

As part of the public consultation, Ipswich Borough Council consulted with the Ipswich Society with a mini survey. The results for it is as below. This is the first and sole public consultation for the original designs and not for the most recent designs that councillors at the borough accepted despite public uproar. 29 members took part – very small sample but good contributions.

Do you agree that the Cornhill needs improvement to boost the town centre?

The Ipswich Society are NOT against changes to this area, after 30 years with the current surface a refurbishment would be welcomed, a refurbishment that added a ‘something extra’ to the town centre, attracted shoppers and visitors and provided a useful space for the majority of current users.

17 members responded with Yes; 7 responded with No and 5 without response.

Do you approve of plans to make access easier to the Town Hall?

2 didn’t respond; 9 said Yes and 17 said No. Comments as follows:-

Why do we need easier access to 2 Nr. rooms? There is a lift to upper floors

“Forget it!”

Not these plans

By keeping the existing steps to the Town Hall, the above problems could be avoided. There are numerous public buildings with steps at the main entrance (e.g. Norwich City Hall). In this case, it is understood there is already a level access via a side door; if necessary, perhaps improvements could be made to this?

There is virtually no need for anyone (including disabled people) to access the Town Hall.  At present there is one Craft Exhibition.  All of the articles are prohibitively expensive and unlikely to be bought by people in Ipswich or by visitors.  I was told by a member of the Council that they might install a Restaurant, which is totally unnecessary in view of the number of eating places in Ipswich already.

The extraordinary ramp which is proposed from Debenhams to the entrance of the Corn Exchange is hideous  and completely out of character with this gem of a Victorian Town Square, because it divides the current open space in two and creates unattractive steps up to it on both sides.   In any case when the ramp arrives at the Cornhill entrance, wheelchair users are immediately faced with more steps inside the Corn Exchange Building.

The steps – access would be good to the Town Hall – but it does not have to take over such a large area.  People who are not disabled will soon become so once they fall down the steps a few times.  Plus if the steps take up such a large area there will no were for people to walk who have prams, wheelchairs etc plus the people who cannot walk up and down steps.

The idea of a raised area is not a good one particularly when considering how high it is – judged from the large number of steps up to the town hall doors.

However, I believe that this open space is already fit for the diverse demands placed on it and that any improvements should be flexible and should not significantly reduce the area available for public gatherings

The proposals seem to have a huge amount of steps and ups and downs-this is difficult for older people to negotiate and means walking further to avoid the steps-I am a new wheelchair pusher of my mother and beginning to understand how tricky this is, but should these people be denied access to our Town Centre? I suspect the same with children in Buggies, although they are generally younger and fitter people-i.e. pushing the buggies.

The majority of Ipswich Society members (and it seems a considerable number of members of the public) are against the introduction of a proliferation of steps caused by the raising of the surface to provide level access to the Town Hall.  An accessible route in through the front doors of the Town Hall could be provided by an alternative design.

The Town Hall is a grand Italianate classical building that gains most of its prominence by standing on a plinth (a semi basement), a full half storey above the surrounding street (typical of Victorian public buildings), an important asset that would be lost if the ground to the front was levelled to match the ground floor.  (This is also true of the Post Office).

What uses or activities would you like to see occur on the Cornhill?

Comments as follows:-

Parades, Market, Civic events, Morris dancing, Market., Permantent market, Bring back the Old

Market Cross with the market around it.

Needs a focal point for meeting (eg. market cross)

Outside plays, music, but all this could be done with the current layout.

Market, Live performances etc

More of the same

Continued fluid use of open space

Christmas markets, music concerts

Market displays, public gatherings

Market , Rallies, Café tables

As now

As now – maybe more dance/singing /displays

Market must stay – it’s lovely. A general open assemby area – preferably with a smallish focal point

Music events, concerts

That gives access to everyone

Market, music, events, cafes

Commercial activities

The Cornhill as at present provides a market venue which is vibrant on market days and links closely with the adjacent shopping facilities, it provides a simple and adaptable square for use on public occasions and, when not in use in these ways, though it may look a little bare, it is certainly not offensive and it gives passers by space across which to view the varied and not unattractive architecture of the surrounding buildings. For pedestrians of all degrees of mobility, parents with young children, users of mobility scooters and wheelchairs, movement across the area is straightforward.

I do not mean to sound negative, and certainly improved seating and perhaps a few more trees is good-The space is a good public amenity-and should be used more for this, and the market can be improved by quality of stalls, perhaps a farmers market monthly? The Christmas Market set ups are always a success-I wonder whether a Ice Rink in the winter is an option?

Any change to the current layout of the Cornhill must take into account all of the activity that takes place from street cleaning to delivery vehicles, accessibility by the emergency services and the assembly of large crowds on special occasions.  Some members felt that the Hall McKnight design compromised these issues but primarily prevented easy and convenient free movement (to streets and buildings other than the Town Hall) for prams, buggies and wheelchairs as well as shoppers with walking difficulties.

focal point for a variety of events, (military parades, bands, choirs, performances with singers and orchestra, theatre, dancing, film shows, exhibitions, community events, plus the market).

Would you like to see a water feature on the Cornhill?

16 responded No, 9 responded Yes and 3 gave no response (28/29?) Comments as follows:-

Just a small fountain feature.

It would look nice for a short time, but over the years would be expensive to maintain and would get vandalised

Cornhill is not a ‘Playpark’

Childrens water play ground


Too vulnerable to detergent/vandalism

Not if it meant losing lots of market space



Any water feature should only be considered if long-term maintenance of a high level can be assured; the fountain to the south of the Wolsey Theatre was seldom working. The rectangle of darker paving in the current design, incorporating an array of fountains, appears to bear no relationship to to any of the surroundings ; in particular, the strong axis of Lloyds Avenue is ignored.

The proposed Fountain feature is completely unnecessary and only reduces the use of the area.

The proposed fountain is equally unnecessary and curtails the open space which is a natural space for Townspeople to gather at events like Christmas and New Year.

e had one in Civic Drive – what happened to that!  The area is not big enough for water.

I like the idea of the fountain.

I have recently visited a town with a fountain/water feature-this was full of detritus at the end of the day and the council operatives had to clean in the morning? So an additional cost to the town-I even witnessed a young child having a wee in the water?

What do you like most about the latest designs?

They all look nice but with so many other areas of Ipswich in a mess (Key St for example) – please get these areas sorted first.

You talk about the Waterfront being a place of ‘prestige’ but the entrance to it is a disgrace.

The tower.




Nothing – water feature/steps are a disaster – looks boring


Levelling off the Cornhill




Open + trees needed

Not a lot – the designs are too modern for the surrounding buildings

To be honest, very little. A little renovation of current paving etc would be sufficient


Considerable waste could be avoided and a worthwhile cost saving made by re-using the existing brick paving. This appears to be of good quality and is probably laid on sand,enabling easy removal. A new material could be introduced for the steps.

What do you like least about the latest designs?

The steps. Cornhill will no longer be a hill.

Will access to the Cornhill be restricted for vehicles?

Steps are a disaster waiting to happen. Water feature is boring and probably wont work – expensive maintenance.


All of it

I don’t like a level approach to the Town Hall

Waste of money

Steps – dangerous, limiting space for the market and other activities

The thing like a box of matchmakers

Not enough trees – greenery needed

No soul

The fact that raising/levelling ruins the imposing stepped facades of 2 Victorian civic buildings (i.e. post office and Town Hall)


The existing trees outside the old post office should be kept, it takes many years to achieve this degree of maturity in any new planting.

Do you prefer the scheme with a tower?

21 said No, 3 said Yes and 5 gave no response. Comments as follows:-

“Rubbish!” There are enough large buildings around the square. The least attractive of the designs.

That is the very worse one. An excrescence.

A tower would be a pointless distraction from the surrounding buildings.

The Tower Feature is completely out of Character with the surroundings.

The proposed Tower Sculpture is ugly and totally out of character.

What do they add to the wonderful buildings on the Cornhill.

There is already a good focal point ,the Dome and clock on the Town Hall,and no need for a Tower.

The tower is ridiculous and pointless. If a feature is required – why not build a replica of the old market cross which is part of the history of the town. It was a feature of the Cornhill from 1628 until it was demolished in 1812. That demolition was carried out “to the regret of some townspeople” according to Bob Malster in his excellent book; “A History of Ipswich.” The idea has also been mooted in the past by the late Dr John Blatchly and it is a good one.

The Towers will date so quickly-and have the added problem of enticing young people to climb then-so we may end up in a situation like at Christmas, with hoarding around the feature, rather negating the purpose of it.The towers certainly have no WOW factor, and unlike the lovely facades of the Town Hall and Bank, will our descendants admire them in years to come, if they survive the test of time

To impose such a high structure right across the middle (at least 2 m.) seems a huge, brutal intrusion into one of the unique town squares of England.

Do you have any other comments?

Do we change the name – i.e. the Corn plateau, Cornflat

I feel the costs of the Cornhill development will continue to rise (£800k now up to £3m)

As I have already stated, please look around Ipswich and improve the scruffy areas. Key Street has been a disgrace etc….

Please spend the money more wisely

Terrible – the whole concept is poor. You need something to provide a focal point (eg. market cross)

All this work to allow access to a building not fit for purpose

Waste of money

Spruce up/ clean some of the buildings

A light touch

These changes are unnecessary and pointless. Suggest using some of the money to provide adequate toilet facilities.

Put a ramp into the Corn Exchange to facilitate disables access

Stop wasting money on designs, consultants etc and build a ramp/slope up to the Town Hall entrance and more ground floor toilets.

Bring back the Boer War memorial or rebuild the Old Market Cross, part of which is in store at the Museum, I think. Provide toilets etc…

Don’t like the tower – too modern!

Why exclude people who cant afford a computer

Keep the steps

1)  The plan for the Cornhill is totally out of character with surrounding Victorian Buildings.  The Corn Exchange and the former Post Office Building are among the most Impressive buildings in Ipswich, and should not be spoiled by installing a modern ramp to the Corn Exchange. 2) There is virtually no need for anyone (including disabled people) to access the Town Hall. At present there is one Craft Exhibition. All of the articles are prohibitively expensive and unlikely to be bought by people in Ipswich or by visitors. I was told by a member of the Council that they might install a Restaurant, which is totally unnecessary in view of the number of eating places in Ipswich already. 3) There is already a lift for disabled people in the Corn Exchange. 4) The proposed ramp also destroys an area at present used by the Market. I think that you should know that the Market is a feature of the centre of Ipswich which the Ipswich people value greatly in its present site. 7) The cost of £3.25 Million is not justified for a scheme which is not needed and totally out of character with the surroundings.

If there is to be a feature in the middle of this square,  it would be much more appropriate to rebuild the 18th Century Town cross.

The whole area needs to be re-paved but not necessarily with block paving, nor with the slabs which have been put outside Sailmakers.  Paving could be done in such a way as to make trails for children to follow; or with different symbols to show the many attractive buildings in the town and the waterfront area. access for emergency vehicles – some of the proposals do not seem to allow sufficient space for vehicles. the seating – although needed – and I do like the type suggested – it would appear to be a hazard to those who are visually impaired. The building which was Grimwades needs to sharpen up their frontage; as do the pubs. Attractive seating is required outside these areas. An area should be nominated for Christmas Trees (perhaps outside Lloyds (the old Post Office). The market needs to start more towards Barclays Bank and go down Princes Street and Queen Street. It can been seen from the main walk area but does not cause an obstruction. We need an area for celebration. An area for artists to paint. An area for childrens entertainment.

Ipswich is in dire need of a concert hall, what a pity there is not one at the University. A good cafe/pub with outdoor tables would an improvement, Better access for disabled visitors to the Town Hall is a neccessity.Although Ipswich born and bred ,we rarely visit the centre of Ipswich,and do our shopping in Felixstowe and Woodbridge,where it is easy to park and the quality of the shops far superior.

In recent decades many bodies responsible for public buildings have addressed the issue of disabled access. However, I do not think I have come across such a complex and expensive scheme as is proposed to resolve this issue in relation to the Town Hall and this scheme would damage the appearance of the building. There must be some simpler way to deal with the issue. It is not as if crowds of people are constantly entering and leaving the building.

Could a less obtrusive access ramp be constructed at the Princes Street entrance so as to maintain the original vision of Bellamy and Hardy’s nineteenth century design?

I do think that it would be good to increase accessibility to the Town Hall. I also think that some regeneration of the Cornhill would enhance it. Fundamentally, however, I believe that this open space is already fit for the diverse demands placed on it and that any improvements should be flexible and should not significantly reduce the area available for public gatherings. Could a less obtrusive access ramp be constructed at the Princes Street entrance so as to maintain the original vision of Bellamy and Hardy’s nineteenth century design?

Surely a total re-design of the steps, making them much shallower, incorporating a curved ramp and also a performance space, might be a better solution?

The Cornhill is reasonably small for the main public space in a town the size of Ipswich, any scheme that reduces the available surface area must offer benefits that outweigh the cost. I particularly refer to the steps in the Hall McKnight scheme but members also remind me this equally applies to fountains, bandstands and towers.  A compromise could be to increase the size of the top step of the Town Hall such that it became a ‘stage’. Of particular note is the division of the Cornhill into separate spaces, members felt this would be to the disadvantage of considerable number of activities (particularly the market) and should be avoided (omitting the steps would achieve this). the prominence given to ‘level access’ to the Town Hall outweighs the usefulness of the building, even with improved access. There are only two rooms with level access of the reception area and getting to the lift for onward transportation to the first floor is as difficult from reception as it is from the lower ground floor entrance. Given the considerable amount of time and effort that has gone into collecting and collating the concerns of our members I trust you will give due weight to the issues raised in this response.

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