A Happy New Year to you all. Could this be the year we see some marked changes to the landscape of Ipswich? As I write this the press has been full of good news about the occupancy of shops in the town centre, but at 85% it still means 15% of units are unoccupied, and of course, one would expect an upturn in the month before Christmas. What I'd really like to see is some of the long term vacant sites subject to a planning application, an archaeological dig or dare I say builders on site.
There are generally two major stumbling blocks to housing (or apartment) development; the obvious is that the cost of construction exceeds the potential income when the units are eventually sold. Quite reasonably the developer needs to make a profit, with some sites that mark up is high, to cover the risk of failing to sell as planned. This particularly applies to flats where the complete block has to be finished before the first residents can move in.
The second, not quite as obvious, is the need for archaeological exploration prior to any work starting on site (and obviously before any return can be realised on the investments made). Sites close to the northern quays, particularly those alongside original quay sides (College Street) potentially have extensive remains, for example, evidence that Ipswich was a significant Middle Saxon town or the extent of Wolsey's college.
The rules of an archaeological dig are that the developer pays, which effectively means that house prices are increased to cover these costs.
I am particularly pleased with the changes made to upper Princes Street, suitably resurfaced in the proximity of the listed buildings, with the new contra-flow of cycles and vehicles but I was extremely disappointed that white lettering and particularly large arrows were painted on to the new surface. You may recall that when similar white lines appeared in the Butter Market (outside Costa) I persuaded Suffolk CC to remove them as unnecessary. No such luck in Princes Street; here the arrows are ‘essential' because the direction of vehicle traffic has changed!
How many bus stations does Ipswich need? How many have we got? And do the County Council understand what is meant by an integrated transport hub? It's where you get off one form of transport (a long distance bus?) and get into another (a local bus or your dad's car?).
Network Rail and Abellio seem to have grasped this; it is now considerably easier to get off a train and on to a bus or taxi at Ipswich Station. I have high hopes that the new forecourt will work well, particularly for pedestrians, especially those walking into town. It remains to be seen if car drivers observe the changes and restrictions rather than assuming that theirs is the only priority as the London train arrives.
And of those bus stations? We appear to now have four (five if the Station Forecourt is included). Tower Ramparts for a local bus, the Old Cattle Market for a not so local bus, Cardinal Park for the regular coach service to the rest of the country and Crown Street lay-by for coaches arriving in town with visitors. The next question of course is what do most passengers need after a longish bus journey - and which of the above bus stations have such facilities?
Finally a plea: you will have read elsewhere in this Newsletter requests for volunteers to undertake various occasional roles for the Society. I would personally welcome additional people on to the executive committee to help out with our regular events, Winter Talks, Summer Outings, Heritage Open Days and Annual Awards. Please get in touch.