The Executive members have been extremely busy over the past three months,
engaged on a variety of fronts in respect of the town and its future
direction, including meeting with councillors and officers of the Borough,
discussing and commenting on the Cornhill proposals and on the Supplementary
Planning Document for the Northern Fringe.
On the subject of planning, I sometimes despair as to where the Government
is leading us in respect of planning legislation. I still cannot believe
that the fifty-two pages of the National Planning Policy Framework will
successfully and comprehensively replace the thousand-plus pages of well
tried and tested legislation developed since 1947. Constant reassurance
from ministers since March 2012 that there is nothing new in the Framework,
it merely compacts previous legislation into a readable and understandable
format goes some way to pacify sceptics.
It is legislation introduced since 2012 that gives much greater cause for
concern including the stupid directive that barns in rural England can be
converted into homes without planning permission. At least Nick Bowles, the
Planning Minister came to his senses during a recent debate in Parliament
when he announced that National Parks would be exempt from this loophole.
It does however highlight the confusion in the Government's planning
policies and a need for clarity. We need more houses and we need affordable
homes in rural areas. There are many barns and similar buildings that have
no aesthetic quality or historical value, including some that are simply an
eyesore. If the rural economy is to thrive then planners need to demonstrate
a willingness to be flexible and sensible, but there must be scrutiny of the
Tesco's avowed intention of taking trade from the twenty-plus Co-operative
stores in Ipswich is working with the recent converted Emperor Inn in
Norwich Road having a devastating effect on the adjacent East of England
store four doors away. Tesco's convenience store in the Heathlands public
house is but yards away from the Foxhall Road Co-op and the conversion of
the Racecourse pub in Nacton Road into a Tesco has taken trade from
Queensway Co-op. We should also be aware of 'One Stop': Tesco's alternative
format which is also putting pressure on nearby rivals.
You will read elsewhere in this Newsletter of a meeting between the
Executive and Mark Hunter of Ipswich Borough Council, the officer charged
with leading the Cornhill project. One of the drivers for the changes to
the Cornhill was to provide level access into the ground floor of the Town
Hall, which should lead to an increase in the number of visitors into the
building. It is generally agreed, and here I don't wish to upset either
Suffolk Craft Society or the Community Cafe, that the best way to increase
numbers is to find a suitable use for the building, a use that makes the
most of its considerable assets.
To this end I agreed to ask Ipswich Society members to report on alternative
uses for Victorian Town Halls elsewhere in this country. Next time you are
out and about - in Burnley, Bolton, Blackpool or Belfast or any other
provincial town - investigate to what use they have put the Town Hall, and
let me know, particularly if it is novel and different. The speaker at our
forthcoming Annual General Meeting at UCS Waterfront building on April 30:
Richard Lister, Provost of UCS and a member of the Cornhill judging panel,
will provide an update on the proposals immediately after the formal
business of the evening.
Finally a big thankyou to Pat Grimwade who will be stepping down from the
Ipswich Society Executive at our AGM, not retiring but taking on a new role
as Chairman of Ipswich Orchestral Society (founded in 1902). We wish Pat
and the Orchestral Society well and sincerely say 'thank you' for the
contribution she has made to this organisation over the past decade.