One of the surprising jobs your Chairman and members of the Executive carry out on a regular basis is answering queries received by post and email. Some of these questions are asked by members (which we are pleased to answer); a few are from others who perceive that The Ipswich Society will have the answer to Ipswich's local issues.
Questions which usually start with words along the lines of: ‘Why don't they?'…
Why don't they look after Wolsey's Gate, finish the Wine Rack, move that awful car wash? The first parameter is to establish who ‘they' are, and it is usually the local authority, but which one?
The provision of local services is split between Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) and Suffolk County Council (SCC) and although it is usually absolutely clear to the officers, some Councillors and members of the public are often baffled. Areas of confusion include Highways, which SCC recently moved from one agency (IBC) to another (Kier, a private contractor); and Planning, which is with IBC, with the exception of SCC's own projects, and the countywide strategic decision-making (mineral extraction and waste disposal).
A classic case in point is the provision of toilets at the Old Cattle Market Bus Station which I alluded to in the last Newsletter. Which authority is responsible for the capital outlay to build new toilets (SCC) and who will maintain them on a daily basis (IBC)? Why haven't they been installed, why is this ‘long journey' bus station devoid of this essential service? To quote the leader of SCC: ‘we've carried out a survey and, based on the few people using the existing facility, expenditure on a new toilet will not be money well spent'. Sorry, but if you ask people why they are not using a non-existent facility, it is not surprising that there is no demand!
We are also asked if we can identify the location of old photographs (Tim Leggett usually can) and the buildings featured in paintings (somewhat more difficult). These requests are usually accompanied by ‘would you like to keep said image?' Photographs are scanned and added to our online Image Archive for all to see; paintings are more difficult, in that we don't have anywhere to hang them (generally, nor does IBC).
Books are added to the Ipswich Society library which is kept in Pykenham's Gatehouse and leaflets, brochures and catalogues are a useful source of historical information and can give me inspiration for an Ipswich Icons article in the local press.
On a positive note it is good to see the beginnings of economic development taking shape. In London, activity can be measured by counting the tower cranes in the city; in Ipswich, just count the number of buildings where scaffolding has gone up over the last couple of weeks: Easy Hotel, Northgate Street, Croydon's shop in Tavern Street,
Cranfield's old building in College Street and on office blocks Princes Street. Local builders tell me that they haven't had this many enquiries for a decade.
Enjoy the summer.