'Developments of Ipswich during the Period 1974-2007' - this was the
title of the talk given after the AGM by Mike Smith, former Head of
Planning and Development at the Borough Council, someone who won the
respect of all members of the Society's planning committee during those
years. Virtually every important aspect of planning and development was
covered in his illustrated talk.
He began with recalling his first impressions in 1974, especially the
waste land along the river corridor, now being gradually developed. One
of the most interesting parts of the talk concerned the Belstead
Road/Stoke Park area because this was fairly new to members who don't
live there. The planners' insistence on keeping and creating green
spaces is now pleasantly apparent in this naturally undulating area.
But he pointed out that the relatively low density would not be
permitted by today's higher density requirements. Housing today is much
more likely to consist of three-storey town houses and four-storey
flats. And here the planners have to fight hard for the provision of
children's play areas which developers aren't so keen on!
In town centre redevelopments Mike expressed satisfaction with some of
the fill-in changes, notably two examples in Museum Street and the
appearance of the office building next to the Sailor's Rest in St
Peter's Street. He is less happy about the mass of Crown House in Crown
Street which the planners found hard to refuse.
Some important older buildings have been effectively retained. The
Philips and Piper building in Old Foundry Road/St Margaret's Street was
not Listed and could have been lost, but it defines the character of the
area and with better management now by a housing association provides
valuable accommodation and a reminder of our manufacturing industry.
The Grimwade Hall in Fore Street, so recently refurbished (with 'perhaps
the most complex new brickwork in Ipswich since the Victorians, thanks
to Polish craftsmen!') is another example of a worthy rescue.
Waterfront projects still owe much, he thought, to the owners of
Contship whose passion for modernizing their building set the standard
for what could be done at the docks. Difficult decisions had to be made
over the isolated early developments there - for example Neptune Marina
flats did look oddly tall but the new UCS building bridges the gap and
the heights are appropriate. If there is a pause now in starting new
developments on the Waterfront that may not be a bad thing. There would
be time for all concerned to evaluate what is needed next.
Ravenswood has posed different problems, not having hills or trees like
Stoke Park (it was an airport after all!) so he welcomed the creation of
a strong layout design from the start with a green and some radiating
avenues. The architecture has been mostly pastiche in style but it has
enabled the 'affordable' houses to be visually similar to the private.
There are some sections of Ravenswood in a more modern idiom but, as he
said, 'volume housebuilders' are so much more comfortable building in
Looking ahead, he recognized that Britain is entering a difficult time.
Redevelopment of the Mint Quarter is essential for Ipswich to keep pace
with competitors, Norwich and Colchester. He is satisfied that the
concentration of tall buildings on the Waterfront is suitable for the
area and relates well to the expanse of water. But he hoped that the
Island Site facing it would be a substantially green area. As for our
Society, he thought that it was essential for us to keep up a watchdog
role - politicians respond to pressure, and if we don't exert it others
Members who stayed on enjoyed some drinks, nibbles and discussion. The
Society thanks Ipswich School, particularly Andrew Gregory, for making
the premises available.