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.