If the economic activity of a town is measured by the number of tower cranes on the skyline then Ipswich was doing considerably better in 2002 than in 2001. If we also include piling rigs in the score line then the work load in the construction industry is looking buoyant.
Work is under way on the new County Court off Princes Street, with an expected completion in September 2004 - quite a lengthy building period by modern standards. By way of comparison Persimmon are bulldozing their way through the old gas works site, such that the first property will be ready for occupation next June. House builder Redrow have two schemes just started - flats behind the Foyer in Star Lane and the Coprolite Street apartments (a scheme which also includes a marina office and waterfront restaurant). The live/work units on the site of Bright's furniture store in St Peter's Street are closer to completion.
By the time you read this, planning applications will have been submitted for developments on the site of the burnt out St Peter's Warehouse (ex-R & W Paul) and a separate application at the eastern end of the same block (the former Allied Mills Weigh Bridge and Burton's factory). I understand both are for buildings less domineering than the original applications.
Salthouse Harbour Hotel is progressing rapidly on the waterfront and although the new roofline is visible from various locations immediately to the north it is not unduly dominant. A restaurant in the Isaac Lord's warehouse continues to be discussed, but there is the ever present difficulty in fitting modern kitchen extraction equipment into a Listed building. However as the other Listed buildings in the complex are renovated the idea gets closer to becoming reality.
The one question I am continually asked is how can the housing market possibly take all these additional apartments? In my opinion there are three reasons:
- The changing life styles of young people, who want a property of their own, rather than living, at home until their wedding day;
- The increase in the number of people getting divorced;
- The easy commute - with Ipswich property half the price of that in London it's no wonder that property in this town is selling off the plan.
Nothing is so sure that if they can't sell them they won't build them - which takes me back to my opening line.
JOHN NORMAN, Vice-Chairman