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Newsletter, January 2004 (Issue 154)

Tall Buildings, But How Tall?


I recently had the opportunity to stand on the highest level of the Redrow development at Coprolite Street and look out over the Wet Dock. It is a superb vantage point, higher than the Bellway flats nearby to the north and better placed to view the panorama than, for example, Quay West on the other side of the docks complex.

I am unsure however to suggest how high tall buildings on the Waterfront should go. There is a clear and direct correlation between the heights of buildings and the wealth generated by them. Increased height means increased occupancy which means increased profit for the developer, which in turn means further investment and more development. Brownfield land becomes homes for the increasing population. There is also the advantage of construction jobs while the building process is under way, and the employment the businesses in the building bring.

But one of the concerns is that tall buildings mean poor design. This need not be the case, and world-wide there are examples of tall buildings being icons of good design. Equally there are myriads of 1960s tower blocks that are bland, boring and uninspiring, contribute nothing to the environment and give the industry a bad name. A further problem is car parking. Taller buildings equal more residents and more cars. Recent planning approvals in Ipswich include multi-storey blocks with fewer car parking spaces than flats (and they are probably being sold to residents with two cars per flat).

The alternative to growing upwards is growing outwards, burying green fields under urban sprawl. Is it not better to return people to the city centre, to develop high density living that embraces the social needs of the community, puts people close to leisure facilities and reduces the need to travel in from the suburbs?

Ipswich has the potential, the opportunity and the vacant brownfield sites to secure its own future, and it has the gem of a Wet Dock right in the heart. Additional residents close to the town centre mean that businesses thrive, in particular the pubs and restaurants. But can we accommodate Ipswich's future housing needs by building on brownfield and windfall sites alone? Mike Cook, Chair of our planning monitors team, has figures to indicate that we can.

JOHN NORMAN

    Front cover of issue 154 Cover, issue 154

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