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.