At our January Executive Committee meeting Jack Chapman announced that he was resigning as Chairman owing to continuing ill health. A well deserved tribute to Jack's contribution to the Society is on page 9. John Norman, equally well known to members, steps up from Vice-Chairman to Acting Chairman until the AGM.
The Ipswich Star is leading a welcome campaign to boost the future and the reputation of the town. The Society was represented at the Beacon Town inaugural conference which John Norman writes about on page 14. One of the greatest needs for the town's prospects is for the town centre to be linked by sensitive and varied development to the Waterfront. This has long been advocated by the Society and it is an aspiration clearly shared by IBC, Ipswich Central and the local press. The more the general public is made aware of this vision - and the reasons for it - the better. But success will depend largely on those with the money to invest in such developments. And thinking of investments, the best recent news for Ipswich is that University Campus Suffolk has bought the land between Neptune Marina flats and the University's new James Hehir Building. Various private proposals for building on this site have come and gone because of the recession but it is a natural site for the University's enlargement in due course and should contribute to its being one of the most attractive Higher Education campuses in the country.
Hold fast to the town centre!
You might think it is obsessive to focus again on the town centre when there are so many other matters which interest The Ipswich Society. However for me, and I hope many others, the town centre is in a way the town. We say "I'm going to town" or "into town" or "down town". We don't need to say "I'm going down to the town centre." Doesn't this habitual speech indicate how we gravitate to the centre? (Especially so in Ipswich where our location at the head of the estuary means that almost all roads naturally lead downhill to the centre.)
At least, that's how it's been so far. But will it last? In most parts of the country, out-of-town superstores and business parks pull in other directions. And now there is the growing popularity of internet shopping. I wonder whether town centres in the day time will have to be kept going by Senior Citizens using their bus passes, and women (of all ages!) doing their 'comparative shopping' (i.e. mostly for clothes) in a largely man-free zone!
Thankfully there seems to be some realisation of what could be lost. The Mary Portas review achieved some publicity in December and her recommendations (see page 5) may have some influence - although without legislation they'll be easy to ignore or forget. In Ipswich, the Master Plan drawn up by IBC and Ipswich Central (Pages 6-7) shows awareness of what's needed, although its emphasis is heavily on retailing rather than a holistic vision of how a town centre could be an attraction. Perhaps the biggest boost would come from more people living in or close to the town centre. The Master Plan does indicate residential uses for the eastern half of the 'Mint Quarter' and parts of the proposed 'Merchant Quarter'. Living in a town centre has long been unfashionable, but human beings are capable of reversing trends over time - in this case, if the right kinds of housing are built, and if motoring becomes more expensive and, above all, if the town centre is attractive in a variety of ways.