Falling foul of a book
I have just been given a copy of a small book entitled Crap Towns which some of you will have read about in the press or heard about on the radio. It lists the 50 worst towns in the UK: Ipswich is number 25! The entry for Ipswich starts," Hideous concrete monoliths overshadow the potentially attractive centre of this once thriving market town." Somebody called Mike writes that a wine bar in the town centre had "run out of wine" at 7.30 pm and goes on to say,"The town centre looks like it's about to fall down in the next storm." The good news is that I don't think we need take his publication too seriously. Also included are Southwold and Aldeburgh and further afield Oxford, Brighton and Winchester. To be fair the book does not purport to be a serious study of the various towns' architectural merits: it was compiled from entries on a website asking for comments on "crap towns" run by The Idler magazine.
Cleaning up our town
Many comments in the book refer to graffiti and litter, and drawing attention to these is something I approve of. Some of you will recall that I have written before in these pages about litter on our streets and the wider problem of managing waste locally and nationally. In this context I note two recent developments locally.
Following a lengthy and detailed report on litter by a select committee of parliament, Suffolk County Council has established a group to come up with solutions for dealing with litter and junk across the county. Let us hope they come up with radical solutions.
Here in Ipswich I am pleased to report that after discussions with IBC about their appointing street wardens there is new action. Suffolk Constabulary have just appointed twelve County Support Officers. These will have more powers than Street Wardens but not the full range of those exercised by a police officer. They will wear a uniform similar to but distinguishable from that worn by the police, and they will be based at Ipswich police station and be responsible to the police. They hit the streets in early December, each paired with a police officer, and from about January they should be patrolling alone. They should make a big impact on graffiti, litter, public drinking and general anti-social behaviour.
The problem of deteriorating town centres is, however, not only caused by anti-social citizens. Councils are also guilty - albeit from the best of motives. I refer to the proliferating street signs and notices, mainly but not exclusively related to traffic control. Nottingham Council have recently addressed the issue and have scrapped an amazing 10,000 (yes ten thousand) parking signs within one square mile of the city centre. Ipswich could very usefully follow the same route.
Distinguished architecture needed
The Society's Awards evening on 12 November was very successful. Sponsored by Suffolk College for the first time, the lecture theatre, which is a very suitable venue, was virtually full. The food and drink was as usual excellent, and problems with the slowness of the queue have been noted and will be avoided next year. I have to say, cautiously, that the quality of entries this year was not impressive. For several years now it has been difficult to award at the highest category of award (although this year Isaac Lord's was an exception). Too many of our buildings, in my view, are serviceable, competent and economic, but all too often lack any charisma or "oomph". It is not that I would want all planning applications to have these qualities, but it would be encouraging if one or two were, perhaps especially around the Waterfront.
A bridge for the future
On this topic I recently attended ajoint meeting of the Waterfront Steering Committee and the Conservation Advisory Panel where the business was to consider the design of a footbridge (with cycle track) over the New Cut to the Island. Three designs were considered, and I have to say they were all of a high standard. [See also pages 12-13] It will be interesting to see in several years time whether or not it gains a Society award. (continued)
A major attraction for visitors
Finally I want to update you on progress on the Waterfront Visitors' Attraction Centre. Phase I of the Feasibility Study has now been concluded, and it is very positive. The report was launched to an audience of decision makers - County, Borough and the private sector - where it was well received. The consultants recommend a flexible concept, designed to function in a number of ways, usl ng moveable walls and ceilings and relying heavily on software to catch a change in the ambience/environment Themes which will be depicted include Anglo-Saxon, Marine, Wolsey, and the American connection with Ipswich.
The consultants predict such a Centre could attract 100,000 visitors per year and soon break even on running costs. Phase I was funded by East of England Development Agency (EEDA). Phase II (the final phase) has yet to find funding, and this is currently being addressed. 50% has already been found. Given the positive tone of Phase I it is essential that Phase II is completed, identifying a site and sources of funding for the capital project. It would be a total waste of EEDA's investment in Phase I if Phase II did not go ahead.
May I wish every member a peaceful New Year.