Some snippets of information from the ongoing examination in public.
How many housing units does Ipswich need and how many of those should be 'greenfield' family homes rather than apartments on 'brownfield' sites? This of course is a vital question for the Examination into the soundness of the Core Strategy for the future development of Ipswich, an on-going public debate in which The Ipswich Society has been involved.
The immediate difficulty is that Ipswich is constrained by old Victorian boundaries, whereas developers, the house buying public and most of the lay population see Ipswich as a bigger conurbation (to include, for example, Kesgrave and Pinewood). The Regional Strategy had the advantage of including these peripheral residential areas in its thought process and recommendations, whereas the Local Development Framework is solely for the Borough.
The other debate is the perennial chicken and egg question, which should come first in the growth stakes - houses or jobs? The developers argue (because they simply want to build and sell) that the houses must come first; employers will not move into an area without available labour. The counter argument is that building houses speculatively simply attracts residents who then commute to existing jobs elsewhere. This is certainly true at Ravenswood, which is conveniently placed adjacent to Junction 57 of the A14 and jobs in Martlesham, Felixstowe and north Essex.
Thus we start playing the numbers game on the only sizeable plot left to develop in Ipswich - the Northern Fringe, between Henley and Westerfield Roads north of the by-pass. And again we can debate how far north this new estate should stretch. As far as the railway, as far as the Borough boundary or into Westerfield itself? Different developers own or have taken options on the different fields within this large area and are bending their arguments to ensure their plot is essential to the working of the Framework.
The Ipswich Society's position on this is clear. We support the development of the Northern Fringe but with some essential conditions. Piecemeal development of small plots does nothing for infrastructure, community facilities or transport links. A planned development of, say, 1500 housing units could include (as a planning condition) a primary school, doctors' surgery, contributions to establishing public transport and off-site road improvements.
This is why The Ipswich Society opposed the proposed developments by Ipswich School on their playing field site and Mersea Homes on their site immediately east, adjacent to Westerfield Road. We are not against building homes on either of those sites (given that the case is proved that Ipswich needs to build 10,000+ new homes over the next 20 years) but there must be a Master Plan for the entire development and the various developers must contribute their fair share to the infrastructure and community facilities.
Part of the on-going debate at the Examination is how many homes in total should the Northern Fringe accommodate (hence the 'how many jobs' question). Crest Nicholson with land interests north of the railway are suggesting a number considerably higher than 1500. Thus when 'retail' was discussed at the Examination they suggested a supermarket rather than a local centre would be essential (think Tesco Kesgrave). The Examination re-convenes at about the same time as this Newsletter is published, so watch this space.
John Norman, Vice-Chairman