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Newsletter, January 2012 (Issue 186)

Editorial: Mary Portas & Our Town


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The future of "the high street"
Mary Portas's Government commissioned report appeared shortly before this Newsletter went to press. It deserves proper consideration in a later issue. She highlights problems apparent for many years and now increased by internet shopping. Thanks to Ipswich Central, its BID and its Master Plan (See pages 7 and 22 below) Ipswich is already doing some of the major things she recommends. But equally important, her report stimulates recognition of the social value of town centres - where people shop but can also socialise and be entertained. Without them, human contacts in the future might be limited to electronic screens, as foretold in E M Forster's 1909 story The Machine Stops - even the slightest touch of another person is abhorrent to someone forced to come out of her self-sufficient indoor existence!

Strong feelings about Ipswich
If you don't read the Evening Star or listen to Radio Suffolk you might have missed the verbal attacks on Ipswich as a sink town and den of iniquity. Having published some of these opinions the Star.s decision to produce a supplement, "I Love Ipswich", was welcome. In many ways the dispute is the age-old one of Town versus Country, going back to the literature of Ancient Rome and surfacing in some periods more than others. The trouble is it's easier to make the anti-Town case. Of course the recession will be more noticeable in a town centre and of course there'll be more crime in a town because that's where there are a lot more people. But those of us who live here and love Ipswich should point out the advantages - your children can walk to school, your doctor's surgery is nearby, your entertainment doesn't necessitate a longish car journey home, and you might actually have helpful close neighbours! Isn't it really the case that Ipswich is a very representative town of southern England, with some weaknesses and some great strengths, actual and potential? No doubt Ipswich Society members - several of whom live out of town - have a balanced view.

Is it fair?
Writing this in the run-up to Christmas, I am feeling indignant as usual about the unfairness of the temporary Christmas shops opening just for a few weeks, especially in this recession. Yes, it.s a free market and the owners of empty premises are entitled to get some rental, if only briefly. But customers are part of that market and we make it possible. There's nobody else to blame! However, after Christmas and New Year those premises will be empty again and the temporary traders might have contributed to the closure of 'regular' shops which have been denied their essential income from the seasonal splurge.

If I.ve stirred up some reactions, I'd be delighted to receive your letters or articles or jottings for the next Newsletter. Meanwhile in this issue I hope you'll find several interesting and thought provoking articles - not least what the Society has to say about planning issues in these changing times (pages 6-9) and what Graham Smith says about the future on page 5.

Neil Salmon

    Front cover of issue 186 Cover, issue 186

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