It is hard to believe that the Willis Faber and Dumas building (1) is fifteen years old, and in this 100th edition of the Newsletter it is still hitting the headlines by receiving yet another international and prestigious design award. This latest award is the first RIBA Trustees' Medal, and the building as a result was officially acclaimed as " the finest work by a British designer anywhere in the world, completed between 1965 and 1983". We are proud to have such a building in this town. We also look forward to the prospect of other inspirational new buildings in Ipswich to complement our historic architecture, which the Willis Faber and Dumas building itself is becoming a part of, without our scarcely noticing. Surely, too, it won't be long before this building is statutorily listed.
The activity of planning applications being lodged in the first half of this year is still frenetic, although there is a marked drop from the height of the same period last year. The monitoring of the more sensitive and "controversial" schemes received by the Borough is still being maintained by the panel which continues to be an important part of the Society's work. The role of the panel is different from the "Conservation Panel", or what was previously known as the "architects' panel", who were consulted by the Borough as a matter of course on applications of importance. These panels have been the subject of renewed scrutiny recently after a lobby of 100 backbench Tory MPs (Sane Planning Group) urged compulsory, paid design panels to assist local authority planners in monitoring the design of new buildings. Chris Patten, the Environment Minister, has, however, rejected such reforms along with other proposed new design controls in favour of giving applicants and their architects one last chance to improve the quality of major schemes. 'Me job of our team of volunteers therefore remains a worthy task, where we as an independent group are free to influence an element of aesthetic control in addition to the other criteria that we consider in assessing applications.
Since the last time that I wrote this column, when I mentioned the problems encountered by the erection of satellite dishes on properties, the BSB "squarial' has arrived. Currently, a single satellite dish erected on a wall of a building does not require planning permission. However, a second aerial will. This regulation may help to restrict the proliferation of unsightly aerials or dishes, especially where TV addicts wish to watch both BSB and Sky television. We understand that there is also a Parliamentary bill on this subject, where it is proposed that planning permission is required for all dishes, etc. I wish the bill the best of success.
The local authorities have this year consulted the Society on a number of local planning issues. Firstly, the "Transport Policies and Programme" report was issued by the Suffolk County Council, outlining the county's strategy for highways improvements for the forthcoming plan period. The Society has been considering the contents of the Halcrow Fox Report that has more relevance to Ipswich, in particular, on a strategy to link the central dock area of Ipswich with the A45 at the Orwell Bridge.
Secondly, there has been a series of draft policy documents issued by the Borough for consultation concerning the following topics:
- (a) Shopping Policy Guidelines
- (b) Wet Dock Policy Guidelines
- (c) Policy Guidelines for the Central Ipswich Area,
The most remarkable advice from these reports was that given by the Retail Group, consultants to the Borough, who recommended that the floorspace in the Ipswich central area dedicated to shopping needs to double by 1993. Also, the consultants reported that they wished to see the market relocated to occupy the current site of the Tower Ramparts bus station (2, page 2).
Lastly, we were asked to comment on the proposed new conservation area at Whitton. This has been at last ratified. We are, of course, hopeful that the docks area, too, can be designated a conservation area, for which, like the Whitton project, we have been campaigning for a long time.
There have been a number of major planning applications lodged recently, all of which we have inspected and commented on. There has been much speculation about sites near the docks. We have commented on a scheme to redevelop the Felaw Street Maltings as offices (3, page 3), a proposal for the redevelopment of Cliff Brewery as an office campus, and another interesting attempt by Contship to moor a vessel permanently in the Wet Dock for their private use. The applications affecting Cliff Brewery are particularly sensitive in that there is now a collection of listed buildings on the site.
Whilst we are experiencing a lull in housing development there have still been quite a few major residential applications either lodged or decided recently. First, the long-awaited outcome of the Thorington Hall appeal has been announced, granting approval for a major housing scheme now that the highways matters have been resolved. Secondly, 56 acres of vacant land against St Clement's Hospital was proposed for another major housing development. Smaller schemes for approximately 150 homes each were lodged for sites at the Tolly Cobbold sports ground and at the former site of Holywells High School, Landseer Road Wing. Lastly, a decision on the outcome of the current proposal for the site of Ipswich High School for Girls (5, over page) has been reached and approval for an outline residential scheme given. The application, however, is unlikely to be implemented until a new replacement school is up and running, which seems some time off.
In the field of cultural buildings, we welcomed the proposal for a new Art and Design centre for the Suffolk College. The proposed building, however, as a celebration of either art or design, was disappointing. The exciting proposal, on the other hand, for the new European Visual Arts Centre, to be situated near to the College and within the dock area, will surely set its sights higher than the College in this respect. EVAC is expected to be the subject of an international design competition which we await with interest.
Finally, Ransomes Europark has received a good deal of publicity at its launch recently. The business park was approved under an outline application some time ago, so shortly we should expect a number of detailed applications concerning individual units. Even though part of the site falls outside the Borough boundary, the Ipswich Society will endeavour to view such schemes with interest.