Michael Loveday is an international authority on urban regeneration. He
has worked in a number of European countries, is a board member of the
English Historic Towns Forum, of which our Society is a member, and
closer to home he is Chief Executive of the Heritage Economic and
Regeneration Trust (HEART) based in Norwich.
I think his talk to the Society on 9 January was not only interesting
but one of the most important we have heard in recent years. So much so
that I ended up with seven pages of detailed notes. The best way to do
justice to this mass of stimulating ideas is to set some of them out in
almost note form.
One of the most crucial aspects of successful regeneration is to
concentrate on what makes a town special and promote that as much as
possible -- to avoid the increasingly common accusation that it is a
Heritage buildings which do so much to make a town unique should not be
just 'done up' and reserved in aspic but continuously maintained and
'Heritage' is not just to interest posh people, nor to promote social
inclusion, nor sadly to please young people (so many of whom think it's
uncool!) -- it is about driving the economy.
Visitors to the UK don't come for our beaches, but to see and experience
The heritage aspects of a town need to be shaped up and made digestible.
For example in Norwich their twelve best buildings are promoted as 'The
Great and The Good', their 32 medieval churches are the 'String of
The public realm of streets and squares should look pleasant and be used
creatively. For example a road might be closed for a special occasion
or for other purposes. Traffic signs and paving should be subject to
joined up planning and not look like the results of different
Theatres, cinemas, the football ground are all part of a town's appeal.
Blue Plaques, too!
Heritage Open Days can play a big part in appreciating and promoting
Making the most of one's town is a "serious business so get business
people onto it". (We could have said that the Ipswich Business
Improvement Districts scheme, BIDS, is doing so.)
Mr Loveday ended by suggesting one could ask if a town is getting
better. The answer is NO if transport is poor, heritage is seen as
"pepper potting" and things are done to people rather that getting them
involved. The answer is YES if the town emphasises its uniqueness while
learning from good practice elsewhere, sees preservation as a positive
good, is community based and will take risks.
In Town with Michael Loveday
Earlier in the day before his evening talk, some of our Executive
Committee members met Mr Loveday at the station and with him walked
along Princes Street, then via Queen Street, St Nicholas and St Peter's
Streets to the Waterfront for lunch. In the afternoon we returned to
the town centre via Fore Street.
It was fascinating to hear the reactions of an experienced town planner
who hadn't visited Ipswich for a few years. Impressed by the developing
Waterfront, he nevertheless noted how it still seems detached from the
centre by Star Lane in particular. His ideal solution would have been
to sink the road level by 'cut and cover' methods, partly paying for it
by selling off the land recovered for surface use (although the major
sewer put in when Star Lane was created in its present form makes this
But unprompted, he thought Star Lane should be
widened and made two-way, with Key Street and College Street used for
public transport (i.e. what the Ipswich consultants had recommended). He
saw the need for Princes Street to be more pedestrian friendly,
especially for visitors arriving by rail and being confronted by the
maze of underpasses at Civic Drive. He noted some of the town's
independent shops but felt it would be very desirable to have a lot
more, the troublesome Mint Quarter being a possible location.
We enjoyed our walks. It's often enlightening to view one's home town
through a visitor's eyes even visitors without the background that Mr
Loveday has. Many thanks to him for the whole day.