Fairview's development, Voyage in Ranelagh Road, will not win any architectural awards. The elevations of the residential units are pretty repetitive. As in all recently built waterside property the Environment Agency prohibits the construction of living accommodation within a predicted flood zone (i.e. the ground floor). An alternative use for these spaces is therefore essential. Car parking is the obvious option but this is not favoured by the planners and in an out-of-town centre development like this, bars, cafes and restaurants are unlikely. There are some live/work units where the owner-occupier lives upstairs and runs an independent business on the ground floor, but commercial users are hard to find. The biggest occupier is the construction company, Morgan Ashurst.
I entered the Voyage site across the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge. The tide was falling and the top of the weir was just showing above the waterline. What stopped me dead in my tracks was the sight of little egrets, stark white with long curved bills. I know these egrets are spreading across the estuaries of the east coast but these were in central Ipswich, feeding on the invertebrates being washed over the weir.
I went into Morgan Ashurst's offices and expressed excitement about this discovery but was met with indifference. Apparently egrets are there every day and the staff are used to seeing them as the tide recedes. But egrets have only been breeding in this country since the mid-1990s, firstly on Brownsea Island in Dorset and then quickly spreading around the coast and into Suffolk. Against the drab mud and algae-covered concrete their glistening white plumage literally sparkles when they leap vertically to avoid the screeching black-headed gulls. If global warming and other disruptions to the planet can bring hundreds of these small birds to Suffolk, how long before exotic crocodilia come swimming up the Orwell?