John Field, previous Town Planner and Town Centre Manager for Ipswich presented a series of eye opening slides to the 2013 Annual General Meeting of the Ipswich Society.
Describing previous schemes by transport consultants to solve Ipswich's traffic problems John highlighted the 1960s suggestions of improvements and alterations. These included double-decker roads by the Waterfront, dual carriageways from Cromwell Square to the College and the demolition that took place in Queen Street prior to a major highway being constructed through Giles Circus, the Cornhill and under Lloyds Arch on into Crown Street. This was to be an important north-south route that was deemed essential to ensure the town didn't come to a grinding halt. The buildings in Queen Street were demolished, Ipswich lost some important history but the road was never built (and nor did the traffic come to a standstill, well at least not until they smothered the town with roadworks for the £21 million upgrade scheme to make the town fit for the twenty-first century).
The dual carriageway from St Matthew's Street along Civic Drive came to an abrupt halt at the front door of The Galley restaurant in St Nicholas Street. This, and the adjacent buildings were saved at the last minute and Cromwell Square became a car park with traffic taking an alternative route down Grey Friars Road to the Novotel and beyond.
Borough and County counsellors have argued ever since on ways to improve the docks gyratory layout but have failed to reach agreement and, apart from some minor tweaking nothing has changed since Star Lane was constructed thirty years ago.
Will the latest round of investment be worthwhile? The docks gyratory will still be the same, traffic will still queue in St Helen's Street, and the other main routes into town in the morning rush, and without Tesco in Grafton Way there will be no changes to the Novotel roundabouts. The subways outside Greyfriars have gone and pedestrians will find it easier to cross the road but will traffic flow as easily?
Incidentally the same figure of £21 million has just been spent on improvements to the East Suffolk Line including the Beccles Loop which now allows an hourly service to Lowestoft; 'tis just a pity trains no longer stop at Westerfield.