I thought that I would start with an update on the Northern Fringe (which Ipswich Borough Council has decided to call a Garden Suburb). There have been two major events of late; Mersea Homes have submitted a 'pre-app', an ideas plan for a small part of the site (based on the Master Plan) which enables them to open discussion with council planners and other interested parties. To this end Mersea Homes presented their proposals to the Conservation and Design Panel and held a public exhibition at Henley Road Sports Club in late April.
Mersea Homes' contribution to the Northern Fringe will be in the order of 2,100 homes (out of 3,500). They have the development rights to the south of the railway line (with the exception of the land owned by Ipswich School), land which extends to both sides of Westerfield Road. We understand that land north of the railway (off Henley Road) will be developed by Crest Nicholson.
The Mersea Homes programme is pushing timescales, as the SPD (Supplementary Planning Document) has not yet been adopted, but they are listening and have changed their proposals to incorporate some of the suggestions made by members of the Conservation Panel. Long straight streets are to be broken with right angled turns and terminated with a building which sits central to the vista, i.e. there is a building which provides a stop, a focal point and a landmark by which to navigate. Currently this building will be a standard house type but we are pushing for key feature buildings across the estate, and here there is a difficulty. Do we want homes disguised as pastiche windmills and chapels or should this estate be able to stand on its own design parameters?
The second significant event of late has been the visit and review by the East of England Design Panel, part of the Design Network, a not for profit organisation that advises developers including local authorities and promotes better and more sustainable places to live in. Following a site visit and discussions with the planners they have produced a report with a number of important suggestions. They recommend maximising the use of Westerfield Railway Station and doing more for cycling (particularly off-site), ensuring the suburb relates to, and is connected to, the adjacent neighbourhoods and ensuring the houses conform to sustainability standards. Mersea have picked up on this last point and turned proposed houses around such that the roof slope faces the sun and the orientation is suitable for solar panels. Are solar roof tiles (rather than retro-fit panels) too much to ask?
Good news at the former County Hall. St Andrew's House in Grimwade Street is being converted into 50 homes in a joint venture by Iceni and Suffolk Housing with the backing of Ipswich Borough Council. St Andrew's House is the 1930s building behind St Helen's Court (the castellated building in St Helen's Street). The main contractors are Barnes Construction with completion planned for 2015.
I had the privilege of climbing amongst the rafters of St Mary-at-the-Quay church in May. St Mary's has a superb double hammer beam roof and photographs of the spandrel brackets are featured on page 2 of this Newsletter. St Mary's is undergoing a £4 million refurbishment to turn the building into a well-being centre for all of the community to use. As well as the refurbished church a new single storey extension is being erected in the south east corner. In conjunction with the building's owner, the Churches Conservation Trust, Mind has secured £3.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). As I'm sure you will have seen, from the scaffolding surrounding the building, work has started and is due for completion in September 2015. The external roof covering is being replaced with sand-cast lead laid on restored timber boards.
I received a large number of compliments following the Ipswich Society excursion to east London, Crossing the Thames. A coach party spent the day looking for proposed bridges and tunnels downstream of Tower Bridge. Given that none yet exist it was a bit of an interesting expedition but all became apparent when we descended into the access shaft of the original Thames Tunnel in Rotherhithe to hear Museum Curator, Robert Hulse, explain Brunel's contribution to the problem.