Archaeology in Ipswich from Keith Wade, former Suffolk County Archaeologist
The ‘Chairman's remarks' in Issue 206 claimed that, when a developer pays for an archaeological dig, it ‘effectively means that house prices are increased to cover these costs'. This is (or should not be) the case. The costs of meeting such planning conditions should be reflected in correspondingly reduced land values. Experienced developers are well aware of this and establish these costs prior to purchasing land and negotiate the price down. Many urban sites also have the costs of mitigating contaminated land which again should reduce its value.
However, archaeological excavation in historic towns is very expensive and a combination of these two costs can in some cases exceed the notional land value. These areas will be ‘blighted' until property values are high enough to cover the investment. The archaeological importance of Ipswich means that a number of potential development sites in the town fall into this category.
The problem is caused by the present planning guidance which is based on site-specific ‘polluter pays' principles. I have long argued that a change to an archaeological levy on all development, which would pay for all excavations when required, would neutralise these problems and put brownfield sites on a more equal footing with green-field sites in terms of development costs.
Schools and surgeries from Charles Currie
I would like to pick up on a couple of items in the January 2017 Newsletter.
Ann Petherick makes the case for using unoccupied property in town centres to develop residential accommodation. The owners of areas like the Mint Quarter appear happy to get little or no return and create an eyesore. They should be encouraged to stop bed-blocking.
John Norman points out that nationally we are running out of school places. The redevelopment of the dockside has created an enormous number of housing units, and if the area fulfils the Council's ambitions for it, it will become even more crowded.
In the 12-15 years since redevelopment began not one new school has been built. Dockside residents may not be a demographic that requires a lot of school places, but the 7 schools nearest the dockside are all primary schools. Despite this, children from Kesgrave and Ravenswood go to the primary school in Waldringfield. Presumably each of them puts another car on the road twice a day. It is noticeable how much more easily Ipswich gridlocks during term time.
In the 12-15 years since redevelopment began not one new surgery has been built. Provision was made for at least one. The new McCarthy and Stone development will soon add to the number of ‘super adults', a segment of the population which makes disproportionate use of medical services.
Planning committees consider individual applications. They do not plan, they enforce conformity. And I do understand that overlapping responsibilities and budgets create problems. However, rather than bow to central government imperatives to build more housing, councils should refuse until money is made available to run the schools and surgeries. If nobody applies to build the buildings that provide the services, the buildings won't appear. And, although the built environment and its appearance are important, nobody is (or, apparently, was) planning to provide the services that may not be pretty, but are essential.
Maybe we should plan to put the schools and surgeries in the Mint Quarter. Nobody else is planning to do anything constructive (or even pretty) with it. It would be a more effective use of land, time and money than levelling the Cornhill, getting rid of roundabouts, unifying traffic signals or spending money on consultants so consultants can tell us how to spend money.