This will be the last time I will write to you as your Chairman. At the January meeting of the Executive Committee I stood down as Chairman for health reasons but I intend to remain as a member of the Committee. Until the AGM, your Vice-Chairman, John Norman, will act as Chairman. At the AGM John will stand for election as Chairman and a new Vice-Chairman will then need to be appointed.
I have been Chairman for eleven years and have enjoyed the experience immensely. During that period John Norman has been a very supportive Vice-Chairman and I wish to thank him for this. The current committee is perhaps the strongest we have had for some time with several new members.
This is no bad time to have a change of Chairman. Little Waitrose has opened in the Corn Exchange and plans are proceeding for a bigger Waitrose and a John Lewis at Home on the old Crane's site in Nacton Road. So shopping will be well taken care of. These developments and the Tesco on Grafton Way show Ipswich is bucking the trend nationally. And although we do have failing businesses and boarded up shops we also have new businesses and developments in the town and more in the pipeline.
When I came to Ipswich in 1970 it was a very different place. Above all, the Wet Dock was an industrial wasteland which had long been depressed. At the north end, Paul's and Cranfield's were still operating but elsewhere old neglected buildings were slowly crumbling into the water. When there was first talk of regeneration of the area, there was set up a group to support and champion this. Bellway flats were the very first development, soon followed by others. The Waterfront Group (later Partnership) was set up, consisting of the local authorities, developers and owners. Ipswich Borough Council was represented by Sue Arnold, a senior planner, who was very enthusiastic. All developments since then have been monitored by this Group. As the only organisation without vested interests, The Ipswich Society was asked to chair the Partnership and I did so until its closure in 2011. The Waterfront today with its university, cafes and restaurants is a very different place and attracts many visitors. It has been a privilege to be involved in this transformation.
More recently we have celebrated our fiftieth birthday with a number of special events which were appreciated by many members. And after many years in the planning, the history of the Society is nearly ready for publication and should be available soon.
The Society is in good shape and I wish it well in the future.