‘The Vision Thing'*
A lot of publicity has surrounded the Vision for Ipswich,‘turning the town round' and we can see a lot of merit in the parties working together to achieve the changes necessary for Ipswich to progress. There are seven signatories to the Vision document:
Ipswich Central (the Business Investment District Company)
New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (Government money)
Ben Gummer (MP for Ipswich)
Ipswich Chamber of Commerce (Part of the Suffolk Chamber)
University Campus Suffolk
Suffolk County Council
Ipswich Borough Council
In practice there have been more than seven bodies around the table and observers have included Archant (EADT) and The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.
I am told that representatives of the County (3) outnumbered those from the Borough (2) and I note that the unelected signatories outnumber those who have been democratically elected. It would be churlish of me to suggest the political persuasion of contributors but those I spoke to suggested that the debate (and there were robust discussions) was predominately one-sided.
Despite all of this, there is a determination to create not only a Vision but also the change brought about by that vision. Change that will take Ipswich forward into the next decade and beyond. Perhaps it is the newcomers to the table, those who haven't before been drivers of Ipswich's destiny, who have been the reason for the progress and eventually sufficient harmony has prevailed for all to add their signatures to the document.
The majority of the proposals are not at variance with Ipswich's Master Plan produced by DTZ in 2012 and thus have similarities with the Local Development Plan. What is different is the joint working party prioritising key aspects. They have agreed on a 21 point Action Plan which, in my opinion, is very disjointed. There are proposals for immediate action (so immediate that some of the ideas were finalised before the Vision was published) and proposals for improvements in a short timescale thus creating the opportunity for an easy win and positive publicity.
There is a curious mix of paragraphs which suggest to ‘start construction of …' versus those which propose the development of a strategy for long term improvements. For example ‘to develop a strategy for transport and signage on all main arterial routes into town' when we are also told that the £21 million UTMC linking the town's traffic lights is complete. (UTMC: Urban Traffic Management Control). And that the proposal for electronic signage informing motorists of available parking spaces has been dropped through lack of finance.
We wholeheartedly support the inclusion of strategic planning options, the gathering of evidence which both supports and challenges the proposals but we were bemused that the 21 point Vision includes a number of firm proposals for change and development before an analysis has been carried out. Changes to the station forecourt have been in the planning stages for 12 months and converting offices to create town centre housing has been underway for some time.
One of the little bits of good news to come out of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement was the creation of four Enterprise Zones in Ipswich.
Futura Business Park (Cranes) (10 hectare)
Princes Street Office Corridor (2.9 hectare)
The former Sugar Beet site at Sproughton (14 hectare)
Ipswich's Waterfront Island, between the Wet Dock and the New Cut (2 hectare)
An Enterprise Zone is a designated area where businesses are entitled to receive financial aid, business rates discount, and speedy planning decisions.
John Norman [*© George Bush Snr.]