This Newsletter contains the Society's responses to several important planning applications, but there's little doubt that the two biggest and most pressing Issues are the proposals for the Cranfield's Mill developments and the Council's forthcoming consultations about the future of arts and entertainments in Ipswich. At the time of writing (mid-June) it isn't clear how the political changes on the Borough Council will affect the Corn Exchange and Regent but, as I see it, the principles which I write about below remain the same.
Cranfield's and the multi-uses of the Waterfront
Pages 6-7 convey some of the Society's views about the Cranfield's development. I hope members will find this interesting even though I quote only parts of our very detailed response to this hugely ambitious scheme. The Society's long-held hope is that many mixed uses of these locations will produce a sustainable future for the Waterfront, which the prospective university premises will help to underpin. And the more people who live or work or enjoy themselves on the Waterfront the more it could link up with the town centre. There is still a danger that we could have two separate communities, and it's true that during the last few decades the docks did become more isolated. (Rather like my experience in Gloucester where I lived for 18 months in the 1950s and didn't even know the docks existed. I believe you couldn't make that mistake in Gloucester now.) However, this perception of the isolation of the Waterfront is gradually diminishing. But, can Ipswich ever have a fully joined up Town Centre / Waterfront while the Star Lane traffic says, "Not while I'm in the way"?
Arts and entertainment
My first hope is that the Borough Council's "consultation" means consultation. The Chief Executive, James Hehir, proudly refers to 300,000 people living within our immediate catchment area of some 15 miles - and that number is increasing quite fast. Such a conurbation surely needs the two different and complementary venues of the Com Exchange and the Regent. It is indeed a crying shame that these venues are financially subsidised by only about one-sixth of that vast population. But for this very reason, Ipswich Borough Council should be devoting most of its energies to increasing its funding by making more time available and applying for grants, private funding, donors, creating trusts - anything rather than finding reasons for irrevocable closures or redistribution of resources. I say redistributions because one of the most simplistic current mantra is "spend money on people rather than on bricks and mortar". The bricks and mortar are essential if many of the people's activities are to continue.
A possible relocation of Ipswich Film Theatre is already being pursued quite separately, the earlier hope of moving to the Cranfield's site having been thwarted. If the Film Theatre does move, that could have either of two opposite implications for the Corn Exchange. It could free up the Corn Exchange, especially the Robert Cross Hall, for more frequent and possibly more lucrative uses, which at present can't often happen because of noise leakage into the Film Theatre. On the other hand, it could reduce the amount of opposition to closure of the Corn Exchange - which, in my opinion, would be short-sighted and very damaging.
Disposing of the Corn Exchange would represent the loss of a centrally located, transport accessible community facility, serving it is said some 80 organisations which regularly use it, a facility which could never be replaced, even if the Council's income increases as the population increases and even if local government were to be radically reorganised.
So, my final hopes are that the Council will think long-term, take its time, and seek every possible means of obtaining external, extra funding for both our main arts venues to flourish.
But whatever views you hold as individual members of the Society, please consider conveying them to the Borough Council when public consultation begins.
I shall be very pleased to receive your contributions to the next Newsletter by 20 August.
NEIL SALMON 16 Warrington Road, Ipswich, IPI 3QU