(held in the Council Chamber, Ipswich Town Hall, 20 November 2002)
Welcoming people to the Society's meeting our Chairman, Jack Chapman, explained that the purpose was to listen to the arguments for and against the building of an East Bank Link Road.
Vice-Chairman, John Norman, described the planning background and emphasised that members could contact him with their considered views because the Society will be making representations at the next stage, a Public Enquiry into the Second Draft of the Borough Council's Local Plan.
The first speaker was Alan Deville, Chairman of Samuel Beadle, the developers who wish to create large retail units on the old Volvo site of the East Bank and to link this with their building of a new road to join the A14. The road would follow some, but not all, of the protected route envisaged in earlier plans. Mr Deville argued that Ipswich wants to grow and so needs better transport links. His plans would provide economic benefits to the whole area and assistance to a deprived part of the town. His company would fund the building of the road and the costs of environmental mitigation, perhaps beyond the means of the public purse. He welcomed the forthcoming Public Enquiry where his company's plans could be subjected to a detailed test.
The arguments against the new road were put by Dorothy Casey from Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Geoff Sinclair of Save Orwell Country Park. Dorothy Casey said that SWT understands economic needs and rarely objects to development unless it seriously endangers wildlife sites. In this case there would be serious and permanent damage to wildlife. She commended the foresight of the Borough Council who designated Orwell Country Park in 1995 and supported IBC's present position in removing the new road from the Local Plan. In similar vein, Mr Sinclair pointed out the value of the Country Park. He feared that the road would destroy the status of the Country Park and Piper's Vale Nature Reserve and could eventually lead to new housing there.
Sadly Landseer Road and Nacton Road Residents' Association was not represented. But the other initial speaker was Bob Blastock of Wherstead Road Residents' Association. He stressed that the port would continue to grow and that all the new flats around the Wet Dock would also increase traffic. Wherstead Road on the West Bank was already subjected to very heavy traffic. He supported the County Council's original idea that a new road route be adopted and protected on the East Bank. He believed that Orwell Country Park would survive despite a new road.
There were many earnest and thoughtful contributions to the debate from the floor. A sample follows. Gordon Terry, an IBC Councillor, wondered whether it had been sensible for IBC to designate a Country Park across the protected line of the potential new road and why there should be local objections when English Nature and the Environment Agency seemed not to object.
Peter Odell regretted the absence of Landseer Road residents who suffer from the lorries using the port. If nothing is done the urban environment will be even more threatened. Martin OHara, speaking from the point of view of Associated British Ports, confirmed that two-thirds of the port's activity was on the East Bank which will continue to grow. ABP supports the building of a road from the port to the A14. They don't mind what the exact route is or whether it is built by private retail developers or public money. He said that a balance must be struck between economic benefits and environmental costs.
Specialists from the developers spoke of their intention to create a "semi-tunnel" with green bridges over for wildlife and of the likely effects on traffic, which could be reduced by 20% on Landseer Road. But the contrary view was put by others who thought that retail development would greatly increase east-west traffic and that the developers' road was not a relief road but a means of increasing car-based business.
Suffolk County Council's view was said to be that traffic would increase in the whole waterfront area so what was needed was a package of investment which works. Although building roads is a last resort, where they are necessary the public purse can provide compensation and mitigation, as in Lowestoft where 'mitigation' accounts for £10m of the £30m budget for a relief road.
Summing up for the opposition to the East Bank Link Road, a Suffolk Wildlife Trust speaker argued that an increasing population will need more facilities for leisure and education, both provided by the Country Park. She approved of IBC's present position that radical improvements to the Star Lane gyratory roads and a Wet Dock crossing would be viable without the new road.
Mr Deville's summing up in favour of building a new East Bank Road was to reiterate that his company's private offer to bring benefits to the community will remain and he looks forward to the Public Inquiry into the Ipswich Local Plan when the evidence will be tested by an independent inspector.
Jack Chapman thanked all the contributors who had produced "light and not too much heat", as he had hoped. There was a final reminder from John Norman that members of The Ipswich Society should write to him or Jack or the Newsletter with their considered opinions, which will help the Society to make its representations at the Public Enquiry later this year.