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Newsletter, January 2011 (Issue 182)

Waterfront Rights of Way


Barney Grimshaw, Inspector on behalf of the Secretary of State, held a Public Enquiry at IPCity Centre in early December 2010 to hear evidence to confirm, or otherwise, the creating of Restricted Byways and Public Footpaths close to the quays.

Although there is wide agreement that vehicles should be restricted, for example along the northern quays, this position is not universally held. Businesses point out that it is essential that deliveries can be made and that this involves vehicles driving along the Waterfront, and this is obviously right and proper. But what constitutes a delivery - guests arriving at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel for an overnight stay, residents returning to their flats from a shopping expedition, customers of the restaurants dropping off members of their party (particularly those with mobility issues)?

Suffolk County Council Rights of Way Committee propose to create three Restricted Byways -- one along the northern and eastern quays, one along New Cut East (on the Island site) and one along Stoke Quays (New Cut West) and two public footpaths - one on the site of the Promenade (which ran down the Island to the 19th century Umbrella pavilion) and one along Cliff Quay towards Hog Highland. Various parties objected to the proposals, including ABP and Anglo Norden who were both represented at the Enquiry.

You may have assumed that some or all of these quays were already Public Rights of Way. However the majority of the time we spent at the Public Enquiry was to hear debate on their actual status. The inspector received papers and heard evidence from 1805, amongst the original proposals to improve the then open river, and the 1837 Act which created the enclosed Wet Dock. There was a string of various other Acts in the late 19th century, including the creation of the new lock at the southern end of the dock replacing the old lock which had discharged vessels into the New Cut.

An Act of 1913 gave the Dock Commissioners permission to restrict pubic access to the Island providing they erected a gate close to Foundry Lane within ten years. The Great War interrupted the planned changes and a further Act of 1918 made additional provision and extended the timescale. There is no photographic evidence, maps or plans to indicate that the gate was ever erected and thus it was argued public access was never totally prevented. There were clearly some restrictions to public access as correspondents to the local press between the wars complained but users of the Griffin Ferry and the steamers sailing down river were still able to cross the Island. Considerable evidence was presented to indicate that the public had reasonably uninterrupted access to the Island until the late 1990s when requirements for Health & Safety meant that the public were excluded on an increasing number of occasions until, by the early 21st century, the public were totally excluded.

Suffolk County Council used the maxim "Once a public highway - always a public highway". The inspector, having heard a range of diverse evidence now needs to decide if a public Right of Way ever existed, and if it did was it ever extinguished or does the fact that the public have used it reasonably regularly for 150 years create a Right of Way by default?

Evidence was given by a member and by officers of Suffolk County Council and this was supplemented by contributions from Ipswich Maritime Trust and Ipswich Society members. The collective local evidence amounted to the various ways in which people enjoyed unrestricted access to both the northern quays and the Island site, and in particular were able to cross the swing bridge of the lock. The Inspector has gone away to make what is almost the Judgment of Solomon. The key words I hope he takes with him are not what has happened or not happened over the past 150 years but what the people of Ipswich want to happen over the next 150 - the ability to perambulate around the Waterfront on a Sunday afternoon, to cross the lock and thus the Island, enjoy a coffee or a pint and watch whatever river traffic is passing at the time.

JOHN NORMAN, Vice-Chairman

    Front cover of issue 182 Cover, issue 182

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