Floods and Houses
The warm winter of flooding should be gone by the time you read this. With the processions of gales and rain coming from the west, Ipswich was spared the hideous problems faced by many householders further west and in such places as the Thames Valley. Our new flood barrier on the Orwell wouldn't have been needed even if completed. But it will come into its own at some future dates. It's been very strange however to hear the many discussions about the stupidity of building houses on flood plains without any reference to what the Environment Agency has insisted on for years in Ipswich that such building can go ahead if living areas are all above ground floor level. Regulations have stipulated that only garages, storage areas, shops etc. are allowed at ground level. Living accommodation must be on the floor(s) above, as in Patteson Road for example and all the flats on the Waterfront. The Environment Agency doesn't make these regulations for Ipswich alone! Admittedly, all these hard surfaces are deleterious to a flood plain, but if houses must be built there at least the residents wouldn't drown, nor even have their carpets soaked.
'Ipswich Garden Suburb'
The public consultation about the Masterplan for the Northern Fringe has now finished. The strategic designs involving the three new sub-areas are well conceived. It will be important that the different firms of private developers stick to the plan and that quality of building isn't sacrificed to cost cutting. The problems associated with all the extra cars gushing on to Valley Road especially at 'rush hours' (!) will not go away. It seems possible that many of the new residents would be people unable to afford to live in Greater London. If so, then Westerfield station ought to be a vital link for commuters. Network Rail and whoever will be the operating rail franchisee then should be fully made aware of this valuable potential which would become viable when significant numbers of the new houses are built and occupied.
It is regrettable that the building of council houses has been such a political issue ever since the 'Right to Buy' policy was introduced nationally. We all know that the London housing market has gone crazy but other parts of the south-east, including Ipswich, have seen such price inflation that younger generations face problems unknown to those who bought or rented properties up to, say, the 1960s. Adding to 'affordable' housing provided by housing associations, the Borough Council's hopes to build 108 houses at Bader Close, 30 at Whitehouse and 77 at Ravenswood will surely make a valuable contribution. Opponents who state that private developers are keen to build affordable properties under-estimate the need for such developers to make substantial profit margins. This is clearly illustrated at St Clement's Hospital site where IBC is permitted to insist that such a large development should include 35% of affordable homes. The developers wanted that reduced to about 4.5%. Rather too big a gap for a good old British compromise, so the proposal to build has been withdrawn.
I reported back in January 2013 that Bradford has suffered a 23 acre hole in the town centre since a proposed Shopping Centre was stalled by the recession back in 2008. I am pleased to report that work has finally started on the scheme (Feb 2014). Just to put things in perspective Bradford is the fourth largest Metropolitan District in England, there are 1 million people in the catchment and the City is predicted to grow by 10% over the next decade (somewhat more dynamic than Ipswich).
Westfield, the Australian property developer, has recommended that building work commences after almost six years of delay. The derelict site, which prompted fury among local residents, became one of the symbols of the recession in the UK. Westfield put the Broadway development on hold in 2008 as concerns grew about whether there would be enough demand among retailers to fill the shopping centre.
However, the company has now let more than 50pc of the 570,000 sq ft (53,000 sq m) centre, which includes more than 70 shops, with Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's all signed up.