continues) The ring-road then looped northwards to flatten and broaden a dualled Bond Street, meeting St Helen's Street at a large roundabout just outside the Regent Theatre, always supposing the theatre had been spared. Our back page detail of the 1958 map dramatises this.
From here traffic would head westwards to the Robert Ransome. Old Foundry Lane and St Margaret's Street would now surround an island on which all the buildings in the middle would remain. A dual carriageway would sweep across the bus station to a roundabout at the top of Lloyds Avenue, in front of Crown Pools. At this point the traffic would continue straight along Crown Street, St Matthews Street (sections of which are still dualled today) and so complete the circuit at the top of Civic Drive.
Members of the Executive Committee were reminded of this last autumn when a map was handed over to us by a Society member. It was dated 24th April 1958, produced on behalf of the Borough Engineer and Surveyor John B. Storey; it graphically outlined the plans for the town to be radically changed. It had been produced in response to government plans and measures to create an ‘Ipswich New Town' scheduled to get a mass of London overspill in the 1960/70s which would double the population of the town.
When we examined the map there was no big surprise because much of what it indicated had been known in the intervening years and we were aware of the narrow escape that the town had experienced; the striking thing was the detail and scale of what had been planned in such simple graphic form. Moreover, at the behest of the central government of the time there seemed to be a complacent ease with which the lines were drawn paying little attention to the potential destruction of parts of our historic town. But some of us were reminded of another occasion, when there was not an escape but an opportunity missed - the effect being that of shock.
In December 2007 the planned Unitary Authority for Ipswich was deemed by the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, to be unaffordable:
"Politicians in Ipswich today reacted with shock and dismay after proposals for home rule were controversially shelved amid claims it would prove too expensive" said the local press.
One councillor at Ipswich Borough, Lib Dem leader Andrew Cann, said he found the decision to abandon unitary status for Ipswich “inexplicable”.
It was a move that rendered hundreds of hours of officer time and thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money wasted: central government announced that Ipswich's unitary bid would not get the green light. The then Department for Communities and Local Government told the town that Ipswich had not met “the affordability criteria”.
There seems, on occasion, to be an apparent arbitrary nature to governance witnessed by people who are unaware of the full story, or who have the full picture obscured from them. The question often asked is: ‘Who makes judgments and who decides?'. In the cases here mentioned the central government of the time takes responsibility and we at the local level can only react and respond accordingly. The map is interesting and provocative especially at a time when devolution for Suffolk, Norfolk & Cambridge seems to be imminent and Suffolk Coastal & Waveney are looking to merge. On this occasion the government has distanced itself from the decisions: it is a local matter, the responsibility will not rest with Whitehall.
I wonder whether in fifty-odd years' time there will be a map to contemplate which our successors will find reflects an escape or a shock - and who then will be there to take responsibility?
Tony Marsden (including contributions from John Norman and Mike Cook)