I was rather hoping that 2022 would be something closer to a ‘normal’ year compared with 2020 and 2021, alas it appears that it is not to be and as I write this column all four corners of the UK are suffering from an increase in Covid cases. A new South African variant has been discovered and has caused governments to introduce travel restrictions. For the Society these increases indicate a reduced opportunity to re-introduce summer coach outings although we are planning a spring programme of speakers in Museum Street Methodist Church.

Looking back at 2021 our biggest disappointment was the decision by the Ipswich planners to effectively grant permission to demolish the former Co-operative Department Store on the corner of Cox Lane and Carr Street. You will read elsewhere in this Newsletter of my visit to Carr House, the former Co-operative’s central premises which have successfully been converted into 22 apartments. Joe Fogal, the developer who showed us around, was fairly certain that neither the ‘1908 Each for all & All for each’ corner building nor the three-storey white glazed brick adjacent unit (which were our prime concern) had been offered for sale for potential residential conversion.

The choice was, it seems, either demolish and build a school or lose the opportunity for this worthwhile development. The Ipswich Society, together with the Suffolk Preservation Society, the Victorian Society and the 20th Century Society all objected to the loss of locally listed buildings.

The really annoying facts of the case are that there is more than sufficient brownfield land on which to build a primary school at the rear of the locally listed buildings. In fact, by utilising the space occupied by the former Co-operative Garden Centre, the developer could avoid putting the games area on the roof.

We are within a couple of years of ‘celebrating’ the 100th anniversary of the demolition (slum clearance) of the high-density housing in Cox Lane, Upper Barclay Street and Permit Office Street. A primary school in this location could kick start some ‘inner-city’ residences.

On a positive note, I am pleased to report a successful Ipswich Society Awards Evening, ably organised by our Vice Chairman, Tony Marsden, and essentially supported – not only by the Executive Committee – but also a couple of friends and partners. Thank you all, it was a very prestigious occasion. The event was made all the more prestigious by the location: the auditorium in The Hold, a new lecture theatre for the university. Quality sound and particularly sharp image projection, comfortable seats and a warm room all contribute to the ambience these awards deserve.

A full list of award winners is published in this Newsletter (pages 18-19) but I should mention that an Award of Distinction (which is not given lightly) was made for the restoration of the Unitarian Meeting House by KLH Architects and F.A.Valiant and Son Ltd. It is often said that the very best restoration of a listed property is that, when it is finished, it isn’t noticeable on completion. I am informed by members of the congregation that in this case the difference is noticeable. The church is a lot warmer since restoration – probably due to the sheep’s wool insulation in the external walls.

John Norman

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