As I write this, we are awaiting the decision of the Boundary Committee on what it will recommend to the Secretary of State as the future Local Government of Suffolk. The outcome will affect Ipswich profoundly long into the future.
Our national parent, the Civic Trust, has entered into administration, a shock to all of us. It will not affect the Society seriously and all our work, including Heritage Open Days, will continue as normal. Members should not be affected. But training events for committee members and national conferences organised by the Civic Trust will, of course, cease.
The economic slowdown is having an effect on the town, but not as yet catastrophically so. The Waterfront developments seem to be proceeding, albeit in some cases with some slippage of timescales. Phase II of the University will be established along Orwell Quay and the student accommodation nearby is being built. Dance East is now fitting out and ready to open on schedule. A food outlet has opened on the ground floor of the university building. Isaac Lord's, the most important complex of buildings in the town, was beautifully restored a few years ago, and since then the new owner has been spending a large sum on renovating and fitting out the interior. It is now finished and all parts are open to the public. The quality of the work is of the highest standard and the various bars and rooms offer a wide variety of eating and drinking experiences. Well done! It is a great addition to the Waterfront.
Talking of the Waterfront, we must not forget that the Orwell from here to Felixstowe is one of the finest and most unspoilt rivers in England, and the only way to appreciate it is by water. Fortunately for those who don't own a boat, the lovely Orwell Lady departs regularly from Orwell Quay on trips down the river; these are a great delight. Details from the Tourist Information Centre. In my view, not enough Ipswich people appreciate their delightful river. When I was a newcomer to Ipswich I even spoke to someone who had lived here all his life and didn't even know Ipswich had a river! Up river, too, improvements are taking place to the footpath and there is still hope that one day we may have boats to hire on the river.
A very important planning application is currently occupying a great deal of the time of your committee. This is the application by Tesco to develop the old B&Q site by the river on Grafton Way. Tesco are wealthy and determined and my guess is that it will happen, despite the foreseeable problems of traffic management and the effect on town centre businesses. The proposed store is large and would sell a whole range of goods, not just food. What effect this store would have on the Westgate (Civic Centre) site is worrying indeed.
Another matter taking up much of our time at present is the proposal by Ipswich School to build on its current playing pitches and move them further away. The sale of the present site for housing is needed to finance the new and improved sports facilities on the new site. There are many who fear that this development, if granted, would open up the development of the whole 'Northern Fringe'.
It is not my purpose here to lecture on the planning process, but I do want to point out that the councillors on the Planning Committee are told how many representations there have been in favour of or opposed to each application. This means that, although you can be sure the Society will respond in detail, it is only one response, even though it will be valued because it is from the Society. But if you as private citizens were to comment, this would swell the weight of opinion put to the councillors who, after all, seek votes and don't like going against 'public opinion'. So if you feel strongly about any planning issue do write to the Planning Department at IBC ~ don't just leave it to the Society. Incidentally, you might be surprised at how few responses are generally received, which means every one is very important.
The recent erection in Cromwell Square of the statue of Prince Obolensky has prompted many to ask. "What about Wolsey?" They (and you) will be pleased to know that this is now being addressed. A site in front of the west end of St Peter's Church (near his Gate) is available and a group has been set up to achieve a suitable statue on it.
And finally, we are well advanced in plans to celebrate our 50th birthday next year with a programme of events and more permanent celebrations, possibly in Christchurch Park or outside the Town Hall.