The work of the Society is continuing apace, much like the ever changing building scene in the town. Recent statements by John Lewis and Waitrose have announced a big expansion in their store's empires specifically targeted at towns which are important but not major in national terms. Ipswich must fit the description very well and it must make the possibility of these stores coming to Ipswich more realistic. There will be a supermarket (together with housing, retail and a hotel) on the Civic Centre site and a recent statement by Government that stores which are not already present in a town should be favoured can only be good news. A department store is to be the anchor on the Mint Quarter behind the Co-op, and one might hope for a John Lewis here. All of this however and the developments along the Waterfront and elsewhere, will be affected by the reported slowdown in business and property activity.
This certainly applies to what is perhaps the prime site in the town centre -- The Great White Horse. It seems odd we can't find a permanent use for this grand hotel building when we are planning many other hotels all around the Waterfront, but I am told the hotel suffers from its central location (access) as well as its age and Listing. Let us hope for its future.
There are of course a number of other prominent retail stores lying idle, most particularly the old Littlewoods store in Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre. These places, however, are not eyesores. We do have a number of these in town -- shops long boarded up and often covered in graffiti -- sad sights in our lovely town. The old museum building in Museum Street has long been in this state since it ceased to be a dance school. However the good news is that there is currently a plan to convert it into a restaurant with some serious names supporting it. All the shops along the west side of Upper Orwell Street are of course awaiting the development of the Mint Quarter. But there is no such excuse for Bar Fontaine at the top of Northgate Street/St Margaret's Plain which the Society has been giving attention to for some considerable time.
The university site on the Waterfront is now four storeys high. Last week there was the first meeting to unveil what Phase II would look like, further along the Waterfront. It is early days but the architect was very open about his ideas and keen to listen to comments. It all looks very promising and the Society will continue to monitor it closely as it develops.
A "mission of safety" -- the Society has recently taken responsibility for saving some very important etched glass panels by the internationally famous John Hutton whose designs are incorporated in buildings all over the world. At home he has work in the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford on Avon, Coventry Cathedral, Newcastle on Tyne and Plymouth. He designed and made three panels for the then newly built Fison House in Princes Street. These represented Roman deities -- Ceres goddess of agriculture, Pomona goddess of fruit trees and Flora goddess of flowers. Ceres has entirely disappeared, Flora is intact, and Pomona is broken but can be salvaged. The Society has been working with the Borough and the Museums to save and store these gems whilst thought can be given to their future home.
I hope many of you use our street market and may remember the Society pressing for it to be enlarged into Lloyds Avenue. Well this is happening, albeit slowly, and the magnificent new bakery stall there is well worth a visit. Ultimately we hope to see the market expand the whole length of Lloyds Avenue -- linking Crown Street to the Cornhill and Giles Square.
Our website is currently undergoing a revamp. Websites (like notice boards) require great effort to keep them up to date. Ed Broom remains our webmaster but is now working with Ken Wilson and Caroline Markham to keep the site right up to date, fresh and lively.
May I end by urging you to put the date, 27 June, in your diaries, for we are arranging another river trip on the Orwell Lady. Our last river trip was a huge success and there have been many demands for another. Su Marsden is responsible for the arrangements.