To me, and to many Society members, this saga has ended in total and ignominious defeat. A Tesco Extra store with over 700 free car parking spaces will be built on the old B&Q site, together with 129 apartments, two hotels and a large public space. This will increase the traffic on the Novotel roundabout by 16% and clearly result in tailbacks on the Star Lane gyratory, across Stoke Bridge and to Princes Street, even assuming that Tesco pay for the widening of the Novotel roundabout to three lanes. The height of the bulk of the building will be eight storeys, thus cutting off views between Over Stoke and the town. Ipswich Town Centre, outside which it lies in official boundary terms, is slowly dying in quality terms and this will surely lower it further and more rapidly. It's hard to see, for instance, that J Sainsbury, the market and Primark will survive. We have in place the approved Ipswich Plan, to be superseded in the next few months by the Local Development Framework; neither of these has been acknowledged to be against such a development.
And yet, the Head of Development Control, in summarising the proposals at the Planning and Development Committee, recommended the plan, the Head of Highways didn't realise that the parking was free and the Portfolio Holder for Finance of the Borough Council stated that Tesco was investing Â£75m in Ipswich. Despite objections from Ipswich Central (the business consortium for the town centre), Turnstone (developers of the Civic Centre site) and of course your Society, the plans were given approval after a second vote because the first proposal was botched. Many of those present thought it a sad day for local democracy.
Since then, neither the Government Office for the East of England nor the Department of Local Government and Communities has responded to letters from many individual members, the Society, the local business community's planning consultant nor the developer of the Civic Centre site. We all demanded a review and at least a planning inquiry. Nothing will happen. The tiny crack of hope would be that the conditions of approval are that all must be built within a short time limit, together with stringent and expensive Section 106 requirements added to paying for the roundabout, will make it economically unviable for Tesco to proceed. Some hope! And they would be back.