When in 1970, the then Ipswich County Borough Council established a separate
Town Planning Department under Geoffrey Ramsdale, I was appointed Principal
Planning Officer heading up the Civic Design Division. One of the duties of
the new division was responsibility for the protection and enhancement of
the town's built heritage. I have been asked, four decades on, to provide a
brief history of the initiatives introduced by the Council, during that
period, to achieve these aims.
We quickly realised that the town's stock of historic buildings on the
Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
was seriously inadequate and that the first step was to have it updated. As
a result, the number of properties on the revised List was extensively
increased when it appeared in 1972. This reassessment formed an important
basis for the Council's future work on the environment.
The next step, in 1974, was to designate Conservation Areas, giving the
Council the extra powers of protection needed to safeguard our heritage.
This work started with the Town Centre. Two approaches were considered. The
first was to simply draw a boundary around the whole of the established
centre, including areas of lesser environmental quality; the second was to
be more selective and draw a tighter boundary encompassing only those areas
of high quality. Following advice from the then Department of the
Environment, the Council opted for the second approach. Today there are
fourteen designated Conservation Areas in Ipswich, including the Wet Dock
and Christchurch Park.
In 1975, the Ipswich Conservation and Design Panel (initially the Ipswich
Conservation Advisory Panel) was established by the Council to facilitate
full local involvement in decisions affecting the town's historic areas. The
then Chairman of The Ipswich Society, Peter Underwood, was invited to become
Chairman of the Panel and this was a function he fulfilled admirably for 20
years. The Panel, comprising councillors, officers and representatives of
local interest and professional groups, advises the Council on all matters
affecting Listed buildings, Conservation Areas and, more recently, on a wide
range of proposals throughout the town.
In 1977, the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust was set up by the Council
with the provision of a long-term interest-free loan of £40,000 initially,
and a second similar tranche a few years later. It operates on a 'revolving
fund' basis, purchasing and renovating buildings in need, then re-selling
them in their enhanced state to recoup the funding for further projects. So
far it has saved nine important buildings which might otherwise have been
lost or seriously damaged by neglect.
In 1979, the Council established the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust. Its
object is the preservation and maintenance of the town's redundant historic
churches. St Lawrence, St Peter, St Clement, St Stephen and St Nicholas were
passed to the Council by the Church Commissioners for a nominal sum and then
offered to the Trust on long leases. The Trust has financial assistance from
the Borough Council, with grants from English Heritage.
This resume has concentrated upon five important early initiatives which
together provided a firm base for the protection and enhancement of
Ipswich's precious heritage. Many other initiatives, aimed at improving the
environmental quality, particularly of our Conservation Areas, have since
been introduced. These include the Positive Planning projects, pedestrian
priority measures, environmental improvement schemes and removal of
Finally, a conclusion which I feel should be drawn from the last 40 years
experience, is that the environment of Ipswich has benefited greatly from
the close co-operation which exists between the Council and the voluntary
sector within our community.
John Field, Urban Planner and Landscape Architect, Chairman of the Ipswich
Conservation and Design Panel
Cover, issue 191