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Newsletter, October 2008 (Issue 173)

Chairman On Current Affairs

As I write the Boundary Committee for England has been holding meetings about its proposals for new boundaries for Suffolk and Norfolk (and also Devon). The Government has charged it with advising on how the counties should be dealt with when the areas must be unitary authorities. The Government has set its mind against two-tier structures (as at present). The Committee makes it clear it has not yet come to a final solution and is seeking views on the two proposals. Their preferred proposal would be a unitary authority, "North Haven", based on Ipswich and Felixstowe, the Shotley Peninsula and surrounding areas, and the other unitary authority based on the rest of Suffolk. The other possibility offered is just the one authority for the whole of the present Suffolk (minus Lowestoft). I am quite sure its final recommendation will be one of these two, so our submission has to address which of these we feel is best for Ipswich. Elsewhere in this Newsletter you will find the Society's response, but I can state here it is strongly in favour of the "North Haven" solution, although I hope we can choose a better title. Incidentally, the new boundaries of "North Haven" would have a very obvious kink in it to the north, placing Tuddenham and Westerfield outside the North Haven. We think this must be corrected.

The Westgate Centre, as it is becoming known, has now had the public consultations and a planning application is expected shortly for this former Civic Centre site. Negotiations are taking place for the anchor store. We might take comfort from a recent Government statement that developers should favour stores which don't already have a presence in the town. This is a new consideration and could prove very useful. Turnstone, the developer, has made it clear it envisages an upmarket development which would upgrade this end of town, so that is also good news. Turnstone is also looking at the possibility of purchasing the old Crown Court and Police Station which are soon to come on the market. This would make a massive development. The Magistrates' Court is also said to be looking at a move to nearer the Crown Court by the river, so there could be major changes to that whole area.

The SWISS Centre (the new sixth form college for SW Ipswich and other schools) has received the support of the Society, although we believe it should be located in the Education Quarter in Ipswich. We have grave concerns about travel arrangements for staff and students.

There has been surprisingly little publicity for a proposal by the Environment team at IBC to build four very large wind turbines (up to 125 metres tall) at three locations on the edge of Ipswich - at the Bury Road Park & Ride site, Ravenswood and at Belstead, marking the main north and south entrances to the town and giving a boost to Ipswich's green credentials. (See Mike Brain's article in this Newsletter.)

Recent crime figures released have shown a welcome reduction (some substantial) in nearly all categories of crime. This trend has been apparent for some years, but public perception of crime has hitherto not followed suit. Now, however, recent research in Suffolk has shown that the public is beginning to feel safer, which is as it should be, given that overall crime has dropped by nearly 10% over the last five years. (All figures from the Home Office.)

Finally, I can't end without a comment on the present economic situation and how it affects Ipswich. Whilst we are not as affected as our big cities, Ipswich is beginning to feel the pinch. The big new development for Persimmons up by the lock gates on eagle Wharf (currently used for timber) has been put on ice. The two big developments on the Northern Quays, Regatta Quay and The Mill (Cranfields), which included Dance East, seem to be slowing now that the main structures are almost completed. I fear the fitting-out may take much longer than planned. One good development is that the footpath along the Northern Quays is now open again. Once the new marina berths are opened (soon) there will be a continuous footpath from lock gate to lock gate around the Wet Dock leaving the only impediment the lock gate itself. This is something the Society has been pressing for since the building work began and it is to be greatly welcomed. But re-possessions are happening on some properties on the Waterfront, which is a far cry from the recent boom days when properties were purchased and often sold on at a profit before they were completed. Such a boom could never continue.

I hope that you will have had a good summer (weather permitting!) and that I shall see many of you at our Winter Lectures and Awards Evening.

Jack Chapman

    Front cover of issue 173 Cover, issue 173

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