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Newsletter, October 2008 (Issue 173)

Future Of Civic Centre Site


1. The Ipswich Society is pleased that Turnstone are keen to develop the whole potential Westgate site, i.e. including the former court building and the police station. Planning for this whole block must determine the planning of these present limited proposals. 'Making the best of it later' will not produce the quality of development we would expect for this important site.

2. The concept of an arena demands imaginative planning to create an attractive and useful facility and so avoid the risk of its becoming a concrete desert frequented by undesirables! The ventilation shaft of the spiral car park could be made into a striking feature with well designed (computer controlled?) vertically inserted lighting.

3. We recognise that the provision of retail space is the key to the whole project as seen by the developers. Yet this is the most controversial aspect and it is difficult to foresee what it should consist of and what its effect would be on the viability of existing town centre shopping, which we are very concerned about. But in any case we advocate a high quality development which would enhance the appeal of Ipswich town centre as a whole, bringing more people into Ipswich for their whole range of shopping in both the new and the older shops. This might suggest a good quality department store in view of its very large proposed size and multi-storey nature. This major building especially must be attractive and not a large expanse of zinc cladding.

4. The proximity of so many local bus services in Civic Drive and St Matthew's Street and the Park and Ride services nearby make this development admirably less dependent on private cars. However the use of cars will greatly increase here and therefore the access for cars and provision for parking will demand precise and thoughtful planning. Civic Drive is quite short and a traffic build-up would be very unpopular with both through-traffic and motorists using the Westgate Centre.

Other observations:

Attractive landscaping is essential in making this a desirable place to visit.

The fall of the land towards the south should be made a landscaping feature.

The New Wolsey Theatre needs more space around it, and because loud noises can easily be heard inside the Theatre it should be understood from the outset that any events in the arena must be co-ordinated with the Theatre.

We are unsure about the location of the proposed restaurant next to the arena. Perhaps that could be located better in 'Retail Space A near the Theatre to have some synergy with theatre-going. In any case, we would not want to see a fast food outlet next to Civic Drive.

Historic Lady Lane is the main pedestrian access to the Westgate Centre. This needs very careful treatment to make it welcoming, and from here the first sighting of the vast new buildings of 'Retail B' should be an attraction rather than a cliff face!

    Front cover of issue 173 Cover, issue 173

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