The Ipswich Garden Suburb aka The Northern Fringe
At last the Highways Department of Suffolk County Council have woken to the traffic implications of the developments and to the inadequacy of the traffic surveys produced by the developers. Is the replacement of Westerfield Road roundabout by traffic lights all that's necessary? The plans have been called in and the developers asked to produce new proposals not only regarding transport plans but also for the drainage systems. We are concerned at the proposed public transport provision of only one bus route to the town; there are no proposals for traffic going east towards the hospital, Ransomes Europark or on to Felixstowe docks. Nor has there been any consideration of the effect of the increased traffic on air quality, particularly in the town centre where we are already over the NICE limits.
There were about 2000 replies to the Cornhill public consultation; we suspect 90% politely requesting different schemes (and a few unprintable). The proposers are now considering the next steps and we can only guess that they might draw up an alternative brief. An application for changing Grimwade's store into a restaurant has been made but we understand that there are major difficulties with such a conversion. However, we are optimistic that a good use will be found for the site in due course.
Ipswich town centre is looking fitter than it has done for a long time; even Carr Street has had a boost with the occupation of the old QD store by B & M Stores. They might have moved in spontaneously but the continuous pressure, including the threat of legal enforcement, by the planning department pressurising them to open a town centre shop must have had an effect.
However, a recent national survey shows that Britain now has too many shops at too higher rents. Predictions by the Centre for Retail Research show store numbers falling by 22% with 316,000 job losses; 41% of town centres will lose 27,638 stores in the next five years. Meanwhile, online sales will have risen to 22% by the end of the decade. We tend to remain insular in Ipswich, thinking that we can prevent this major change in our way of life but it is happening all around us. Our leaders need to formulate a long term plan for what is going to come about in the near future, not for reintroducing the golden era of times past which anyway only existed in sepia-tinted rosy-hued memories. We need a plan that accepts that the town centre will have a greater focus on leisure and housing rather than retail.
It looks as though the Upper Orwell river crossings will be built. Currently, a competition for the design is under-way and engineers are on site drilling trial holes. The Society has considerable doubts on the business case and the traffic figures and we would like to see the detailed numbers.
St Clement's Hospital (built to the design of W.R. Ribbans in 1870) is to be redeveloped; the original hospital buildings will be retained and internally remodelled to provide a total of 47 dwellings. This is a good scheme retaining most of the Victorian buildings which surveyors report are in good condition. Ipswich is unusual, then, in retaining their asylum buildings for a long term use. Most of the 150 mental hospitals in the UK have been demolished in their entirety and replaced by housing developments by one of the big private house-building companies. The southern half of the site is a different story; this was sold by the NHS and is now owned by Bovis Homes. Their plans for 227 dwellings (20% affordable), have been discussed at three meetings of the Urban Design Panel who have major reservations about the site layout and the design of the proposed houses. In November the Borough Planning Committee heard an impassioned speech from our Chairman and, despite the Officers' recommendations deferred their decision for four weeks for Bovis to come up with changes in the design. Watch this space.
Edith Cook was the pioneering aviatrix whom the Society has memorialised with a Blue Plaque. The Suffolk Aviation Heritage Group applied to have their latest design of a memorial on the plinth at Back Hamlet. The Society said the statue must be ‘sufficiently well designed to convey a clear message from a distance' and their proposal failed in this respect. The Planning Committee agreed and rejected the design as not complying with the relevant design policies. We remain highly supportive of the project.
There are fresh developments of 60 council houses on the Took's bakery site with access from the Old Norwich Road and, separately a large warehouse and distribution centre behind the old Bury Road B&Q building on a greenfield site. We will report more fully in the next issue.