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Newsletter, April 2011 (Issue 183)

Waterfront Developments

Waterfront Developments at a Standstill

I feel I should comment on the article that appeared in the EADT and the Evening Star in mid-February where Mike Cook of this Society was quoted suggesting the completion of Waterfront developments may take another ten to fifteen years.

Development on Ipswich Waterfront has come to a standstill and the shell of a partially completed tower block stands forlorn. Elsewhere buildings appear finished but only from the outside; flats within are awaiting fit-out, services and residents. So why has everything stopped? "It's the economy, stupid." Well yes, but you may not realise that the developments at Regatta Quay and at Cranfield's Mill are owned by the lrish banks (or what's left of them). Irish banks were also the financial muscle behind other local developments including Broadmeadow (on the site of the Ipswich sugar beet factory) and SnOasis at Great Blakenham.

The situation could be worse, not necessarily in terms of time but in the scale of the problem the developers (now in administration) have left. There is discussion in the construction industry about the deterioration of the skeleton that stands above Albion Quay (Regatta Quay) and this concern is somewhat justified. The reinforced concrete floors of this building are designed as internal elements, not to withstand the ravages of the weather and will deteriorate over time unless protected by external walls and floor screeds. Any developer buying the shell off the receivers will need to have the structural stability checked and it is unlikely engineers will put their reputations on the line and suggest it is safe, so demolition is the most likely option.

The 23-storey tower block above Dance East is also empty but has the advantage of being clad and therefore watertight. Attempts are being made to market the flats that have been fitted out (the 11, 13 and 17 storey blocks fronting Foundry Lane) at a somewhat more realistic price than was the case in late 2007. However the Victorian buildings are left empty and dejected and it will be a long time before the estimate value of the completed accommodation matches the cost of renovation.

The East of England Development Agency had a big part to play in ensuring the former mill moved from redundancy to the scheme we see today. One of the conditions was that the renovation and new building of the whole complex had to be completed within five years. Unfortunately with the original developer no longer in existence it is impossible to invoke the clause, and with the demise of EEDA there is no organisation left to do it.

Things will change and speculators are already trying to guess when.

JOHN NORMAN, Vice-Chairman

    Front cover of issue 183 Cover, issue 183

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