Walking through Ipswich the other day, I noticed some of the changes that
are currently happening in the town, and thought my musings may provide some
food for thought.
Public Spaces: The County Council is carrying out major road improvements,
many in the Conservation Area. Some, such as St Margaret's Plain are nearly
complete; others such as the Old Cattle Market and Princes Street are work
in progress. The Ipswich Design and Conservation Panel were consulted on the
schemes but owing to the nature of the funding some design has been done 'on
the hoof' and the final project detail has left something to be desired.
However, it is hoped that new quality materials, good workmanship and
reduced clutter will improve the standard of the public realm and make these
areas more pedestrian friendly.
The Highway Authority: The agency agreement whereby mc undertakes the role
of Highway Authority in the town comes to an end in March and the role will
revert to the County Council. The County is intending to work in partnership
with May Gurney. These changes are of concern as existing Borough staff will
move to the County from April and to the new contractor from October. The
Design and Conservation Panel has had a good working relationship with the
Borough engineers, and new partnerships will have to be forged. It is
important that the Society continues to lobby for involvement as to how the
public spaces of Ipswich are treated.
The Environment Agency: Development around the Waterfront is mostly at a
standstill. The Environment Agency has directed that there shall be no
residential development within the area liable to flooding. Developments
already given consent have solved this problem by proposing either street
level parking or new shop units. The former leads to a dull street scene and
the latter is preferable as long as the shops are let and not left empty
with estate agents' notices attached. This brings me to:
Vacant Shops: These are appearing all over the town centre, partly owing to
the recession and partly because of increased internet shopping and
out-of-town retail parks. Ipswich is not alone with this problem and
solutions are not easy to find. The recession may lead to a fall in rental
values and other uses may be attracted to take empty premises. Policies to
encourage more residential use in the town centre could be a way forward.
Notwithstanding the opinions of Sir Stuart Rose, I am firmly of the view
that the market should remain on the Cornhill. It is the life blood of the
town and attracts shoppers to use other services and shops at the same time.
Whatever the solution, the physical fabric of the town relies on its
economic vitality; the two are interdependent.
The Green Deal: This is a Government initiative to encourage people to
better insulate their homes. One possible method to deal with properties
with solid brick walls is to externally clad them with insulation which is
then rendered. This will require ongoing maintenance. These properties are
from housing stock constructed typically before World War I. The Green Deal,
if taken up by owners of these houses, could lead to some strange sights in
the Victorian areas of the town.
Conclusions: These are a rather disparate range of topics but they
illustrate the importance of a strong and vocal Ipswich Society. The town
has always been subject to change, but times have never been so challenging
and vigilance is essential.