As I write, the town is gearing up for the Christmas period. Naturally it is not expected to be a bumper Christmas, in the midst of austerity. Some towns have even abandoned Christmas lights but fortunately not Ipswich. The retail position is not good and there are a number of shops (some large) which have closed, but it is important to keep a sense of proportion. Even in this bleak economic climate, there are signs of optimism. New shops are opening, although the headlines concentrate on the ones closing. A shining example of faith in the future is Coe's newly completed re- vamp and its purchase of the former Hare and Hounds pub opposite in order to extend its business; building work has already begun.
There is also the arrival of Waitrose in the Corn Exchange which should bring many more people into the town centre. Unlike larger supermarkets on the edges of towns, with lavish car parking, this Waitrose will rely on shoppers on foot who may well be expected to do other shopping in the town centre.
The John Lewis proposed development of the old Crane's site on Nacton Road is progressing. They have applied for planning permission for a John Lewis At Home store, another Waitrose and there will be other proposals for this very large site.
In accordance with the Government's policy of decentralisation, the Cabinet recently visited Ipswich, where they met Ipswich MP, Ben Gummer. Unfortunately security concerns prevented their meeting in Ipswich centre, and their main meeting took place at BT in Martlesham, but some ministers individually visited many organisations in the town, including businesses and schools. It was also good to note that they travelled by train - standard class - although this gave ammunition to those who claimed the whole visit was a publicity stunt!
Soon after the unveiling of the Wolsey sculpture (which has just won a Society award) the town has another piece of public art outside UCS on the Waterfront. This, however, is much more controversial than Wolsey! It includes a large question mark on its side and has been the subject of much debate in the town and the press. The Society's view is that the more sculpture the better and the more discussion generated the better.
More good news concerns Broomhill Pool. IBC have decided to back the project and developers are being approached to undertake the work, subject to successful grant applications. The clock tower would be reinstated but it seems there may not be enough money to make it a heated pool. Still, the future is much brighter than it was.
Finally, belated good news about our History. It is now completed and is in its final edit. You should hear more in the New Year.
I hope you all will have enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.