...it's our town

Listed Buildings
of Ipswich Willis Building (Grade I)

Newsletter, July 2009 (Issue 176)

Tall Tower Block

These extracts from an e-mail correspondence will probably ring a bell with many members who have had some of these thoughts, whether for or against tower blocks in Ipswich. An interested member of the public wrote to the Society expressing dismay that the 23 storey tower at The Mill (ex-Cranfields) was allowed to be built.

The Society's reply included:

"The simple answer is we did not approve of the 23 storey tower block: we vigorously opposed it, both in writing and by sending the Society's Planning Monitor to the meeting of the Planning Committee where he spoke for the allocated five minutes. We also know others supported the Society in our opposition. In our opinion the 23 storey tower breaks the skyline of the tree lined basin in which the town centre of Ipswich lies (as is now obvious from Wherstead Hill and from the top of Christchurch Park) and by doing so is eight storeys too tall. However, planning is a democratic process, decisions are taken by our elected representatives (local councillors) on the advice of officers, who recommended approval ... "

The response to this was lengthy but included:

"What really distresses me is that the whole mayoral/councillor body appears to have neither pride, foresight nor style as regards the overall development of Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk .... The deserted and redundant docks presented a golden opportunity to do something really imaginative and stylish covering the whole area on both sides of the marina - esplanades, cycle ways, tree-lined green spaces with stylish, harmonious low-rise housing and apartments, built in variations on a basic architectural design in essentially the same building material. A consistent all-of-a-piece regeneration plan drawn up by the town planners, offered out to the developers to bid for in keeping with the laid down rules to give the citizens both a pride in their town and a pleasing environment."

The most important points in the Society's reply were these:

"I think what you are alluding to is a desire for a single body to develop the whole of the Waterfront to a simple master plan, buildings that are co-ordinated and complementary. Unfortunately this is not the real world in the 21st century. Individual sites are owned by different people, each having the right to develop their site as they wish. All planners can do is refuse the idea submitted, suggest tweaks or accept with conditions .... The Ipswich Society was formed in 1960 .... Current members have been successful in persuading the Planning Committee to refuse numerous unsuitable, uninspiring applications. Perhaps we are at fault by not letting the public know what might have been built had we not been so active."

We concluded with the example of the proposed development of Shed 8 site, on Orwell Quay. One of our criticisms was its massiveness, mass being one of the considerations of the planning process. Ipswich Borough planners agreed with our critique and the proposal was refused. The developer came back with an alternative scheme - substantially, tower blocks - and again we objected and again the planners refused. The developer is further considering alternative proposals. The example was given to show that not all proposals are allowed and that the Planning Committee does listen to objections and does care about the town, although they may have different pressures and different values from the Society.

    Front cover of issue 176 Cover, issue 176

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