Members will perhaps recall that the Group was set up by the Borough Council's Environmental Protection Panel in 1998 following a brainstorming session of that body which wanted to do something specific rather than acting only as a talking shop. Of the original members, those who are regular attendees at our bi-monthly meetings represent Sustrans (the national cycle campaign), Ipswich Cycle Campaign, Ipswich Wildlife Group, Inland Waterways Association, IBC planners and a councillor and, of particular importance, the Greenways Project of which I have written occasionally. I have represented The Ipswich Society and am the Chairman of the Group since its inception.
So what has been achieved in these twelve years? One of the most significant changes has been in the way the river as an amenity to be cherished is now accepted. Previously the town seemed to have turned its back on it. Planning guidelines now require new development along the river to face on to it and developers to provide high standard footpaths and cycleways. The results can be seen by walking from Yarmouth Road to the flood control gate under the railway bridge.
The River Action Group helped to promote the now very successful skateboard park. We do our best to look after the Ipswich Society's sarsen stones picnic area. Sadly the graffiti on the stones can only be sand-blastedl
We have been successful in obtaining Lottery funding for some of the artwork along the river path. The Navigator is a bold piece of sculpture recalling the industrial engineering past of Ipswich. Our ancient rower at Stoke Bridge is by a local sculptor and was cast by him in his Butley forge. The murals on some of the retaining walls fight a continuing battle with would-be graffiti improvers!
The Ipswich Society has been very supportive and has funded a simple river walk leaflet which is in its third edition. The Society has also now agreed to fund the cost of renewing the vandalised information boards where this has become necessary.
We are hopeful of obtaining funding to provide disabled, cycling and push chair access under the flood control unit railway bridge as part of Ipswich's participation in the Haven Gateway Partnership. This has updated its integrated development programme for important infrastructure needed to support the growth of the area and help to justify growth point funding into the Haven Gateway. Early days I am afraid!
There are possibilities of benefiting from the development of the old B&Q site now purchased by Tesco. Then one day the old British Sugar factory site will be developed which should also benefit the river towards Sproughton - the limit of our Group's ambitions. The newly established River Gipping Trust wants to establish navigation rights up to Stowmarket (as described in the January Newsletter).
I should like to encourage members to walk the river path and see our achievements for themselves.