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Newsletter, July 2004 (Issue 156)

Chairman on Current Affairs


Summer is with us once again! As I write we learn that May has been one of the driest for many years - will the summer produce serious droughts?

Last month saw the AGM held again at Suffolk College and sponsored by the College. There was a good turnout and the evening was a great success with the usual superb catering by the College. (I overheard one person remark that he came mainly for the food and drink!) The speaker was John Lyall, the architect of the development at Cranfield's Mill on the Waterfront. There was so much interest and so many questions that we were somewhat late in finishing, and I'm afraid we kept the catering students beyond their finishing time. We hope to do better next year.

A massive scheme for the Waterfront
The proposals for Cranfield's Mill are, of course, a major development, and after prolonged discussion the Society's position has been made clear in our letter to the planners. (See the separate report in this Newsletter.) We strongly support the concept, the mixed uses, the open spaces and the wonderful new home for Dance East. We do, however, have reservations about the height of the main block. Although we realise that such a development depends critically upon the economics of it all, we do feel that further consideration should be given to the maximum height. What I am quite certain of is that when the scheme is finally built it will be a wonderful addition to our Waterfront and we shall be proud of it.

Also last month IBC held a prestigious meeting at the football ground about how it is tackling its housing needs. In the afternoon there was the opportunity to visit Ravenswood on the site of the old airport. In the morning there had been much discussion of the Government's policy on "affordable housing". I am still unsure that I have a clear definition of this, despite the speakers' efforts. It seems to me to be a purely relative term - housing which costs less than more prestigious developments and usually built by a housing association, perhaps on a partowned or gradually-owned basis. If one looks at the problem the other way round, however, and take a person on a salary of, say, £20,000 p.a. (the rate of very many people, particularly those in the public service), mortgage companies used to loan up to 3x annual income, which would be £60,000. Current prices of "affordable houses" are vastly more expensive than this.

Progress at Ravenswood
With this in mind I was most pleased to go on a tour of the Ravenswood scheme with John Stebbings, who is the Council's liaison man with the development, and the senior person with the firm doing the development. Whilst we were on the visit, I had in mind the possible development at Westerfield which will be about the same size. Ravenswood has both private and "affordable" housing - the latter built by a housing association - and I was very interested to see how the two kinds of properties compared and co-existed. The housing association chose to use the same builder, which certainly helped, and it was fascinating to see one part of the development where the two kinds of properties were separated and one part where they were intermingled. It was most gratifying to find that in many cases it was impossible to tell which was which.

Learning from Ravenswood
More generally, the layouts and finishes were pleasingly varied and there is a very welcome system of dealing with waste water in the development. Although The Ipswich Society objected strongly to the closure of the airport before an alternative site was found, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the high standards of the Ravenswood scheme. If we come to develop the Westerfield site there are many ideas that should be copied and hopefully improved on. One decision which was made at an early stage and would certainly apply to Westerfield is to lay out the bus routes before building begins, so the prospective owners and tenants could see where the routes would run. I would hope all of you who have not visited Ravenswood would do so. If there was demand we might even arrange a Society trip .... What do you think?

Tidying up our roads
At the AGM we asked for ideas about activities and campaigns. One idea is that the Society should have a campaign against street clutter - mainly road signs. The Committee is very keen on this and is considering such a campaign, initially in the town centre. Other towns have been very successful in such schemes. It would require carefully noting and photographing such signs as evidence to the appropriate body.

On a personal note, I have been so concerned at the recent spate of white paint on our roads that I have made enquiries at Borough and County level and discovered that they are not (as I feared) at the behest of Central Government but are purely home-grown! I have in mind particularly the rash of double broken white lines up the centre of roads with hatching between them. On right turns the point at which you should move to the centre is rigorously marked with more hatching. When I discussed this with the local official and suggested his paint budget was too generous, he remarked politely that I could always ignore them (which I usually do). It was very interesting, after this exchange, to learn that elsewhere, too, there are campaigns to rid our roads of all this clutter - some recent research claims to show that less clutter of this soil reduces accidents!

Let me finish by welcoming summer weather and hoping it is kind for our river trip on 13 July when I hope to meet many of you again.

JACK CHAPMAN

    Front cover of issue 156 Cover, issue 156

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