I write with Christmas looming: by the time you read this it will be over, but nevertheless I hope you had a happy and peaceful holiday.
It has been a busy and very interesting period since my last report to you, so I shall attempt to touch upon some of the many things your Society and its Committee have been involved in.
It has been a good year for membership which had a net increase of 32 in the last year, keeping us one of the largest of civic societies in the country (bigger than some in large cities). We are not only large; we are well respected in the Civic Trust, something in which we can all take pride.
On 29 November, your Executive Committee held a meeting with Dale Jackson and Inga Lockington, the leaders of the new administration in the Borough. This was held at our initiative and a wide ranging agenda was covered, including Finance, Housing, Culture, Waterfront, Environment, Transport, Ipswich Village and the Mint Quarter. The purpose of the meeting was to explore each side's thinking in approaching these problems and then understand more the other's views. In this it was eminently successful and we may well have other meetings with other leaders/decision makers.
Making a Difference
One of the issues we discussed with the councillors was street clutter. The Council has recently launched a scheme labelled M.A.D. - Making a Difference - which is concentrating one at a time on the wards in the Borough to see if we can tidy up the streetscape. Of concern are the unnecessary clutter of street signs, often put up by different agencies, many outdated and all confusing. Litter and graffiti are also included. This initiative on behalf of the Borough coincided with a booklet on the same lines published by English Heritage entitled Save Our Streets.
Your Committee decided the Society should play its part in this, and in Alexandra Ward (where the initiative began) and also in Rushmere we have had members on the streets listing eyesores and problems. The Borough Council has welcomed this and you should already have seen an improvement in these wards. Others will follow. If you feel moved to play a role in this, please contact a committee member for a pro-forma so we can tabulate the results.
November saw our Annual Awards evening held at the College. The lecture theatre was filled to overflowing, and these numbers were more than I had estimated for the caterers, so there were a few problems. Next year I shall estimate a full house and cater accordingly.
The development of the Waterfront continues apace. Cranfields Mill has now received its planning permission (including the tower block of 23 storeys) and Albion Wharf next door (the Paul's business) is on the way to being developed. Initial plans have been unveiled, and these look promising - removing the silo and giving more space around the Old Custom House.
The proposed Visitor Attraction on the Waterfront is being progressed. The forthcoming big Persimmon development near the lock gates on Eagle Quay has offered us a building right on the waterfront as part of their development of this site. Three sites - Eagle Quay, Albion Wharf and the land between the churches of St Peter and St Mary at the Quay behind Wolsey's Gate - are currently all being evaluated by the consultants, Continuum. All is very promising.
Speaking of the Waterfront, I can now report on the outcome of consultations held by the Environment Agency about improving flood defences in the area. You will perhaps remember that the cheapest option was simply to raise the existing barriers along the New Cut and up river, and this was the option they proposed to go for, which would mean it would be impossible to see our river. I'm glad to say that as a result of the public consultations, and numerous letters from your Society, the Environment Agency has now decided to recommend a barrier across the New Cut, which could mean some existing walls could even be reduced in height. The decision has yet to be approved by DEFRA, but it is looking good at this stage.
Meeting with the Chief Executive
In August I had one of my regular meetings with James Hehir, the Borough Counc' I's Chief Executive Officer, and we had our usual broad review of issues, challenges and opportunities. These meetings are private - just the two of us - and extremely useful I hope to both of us in helping to see that the changes to Ipswich are for the better.
Those of you with access to a computer will by now have visited our website on www.ipswichsociety.org.uk. It is considerably enlarged and improved and we are already receiving numerous 'hits' from locations all over the world. Our thanks go to Ed Broom who with John Ames not only developed the new site but manages it for us. I urge all of you who can to visit it.
Finally, the Editor has recently spoken to me about the paucity of articles and letters he receives from you. Our Newsletter has won praise and awards from many quarters, but it is true that most of the content does seem to come from Committee members or the Editor himself. There must be many things going on which please or outrage or simply interest you, and it would be very good to hear from you. Articles, letters or questions of any lengths would be most welcome. Make a new year resolution to contact us!