Following the turmoil and reordering of positions amongst the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council (Mark Bee stepped down as leader to be replaced by Colin Noble), one cabinet member, Christopher Hudson, member for Kesgrave and Rushmere St Andrew who lives in Framlingham, was given responsibility for 'Ipswich'.
Christopher Hudson's first public statement in his new post (which includes being deputy leader of the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council) was that SCC would make a contribution towards the repaving and new layout for the Cornhill. This scheme is therefore back on the local political agenda. It is, in simple terms, a scheme that is likely to cost over £3 million but will see the Cornhill transformed with level access to the Town Hall.
Ipswich Borough Council have already committed £800k and this recent announcement from SCC of a further £800k means that Government funding can now be sought for a similar amount, leaving local businesses to make up the difference. The majority of this private funding is expected to come from national players with a local presence, businesses that will benefit from the increased footfall the improvements are expected to bring. This idea is reliant very much on an 'I'll contribute if you will' brotherly pact which Ipswich Central will instigate.
Suffolk County Council's commitment to a financial contribution now makes the changes to the Cornhill much more likely to happen and a number of Ipswich Society members (and key committee members from other organisations) have phoned me to ask "what's next?". Will there be a public consultation? Will these major changes need planning permission or are they regarded as Highways work? Will the reduced surface area of the new Cornhill curtail the activities we have enjoyed since pedestrianisation?
These are questions I cannot answer with any authority. The drivers of change are a mixed bunch, Ipswich Central (the BID partnership), Ipswich Borough Council, SCC and the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) which is hardly local given that the majority of members are Norfolk based. The LEP is the source of the Government funding mentioned above. I will keep you posted as things develop.
The AGM in April was by all accounts a successful occasion, with the exception of the roving microphones that would not work on the evening, despite us having been in to the University earlier in the day to check everything was in place. We seem to be fated with audio equipment whenever we get together. The summer brings coach outings and they are as popular as ever, most are full within days of the Newsletter appearing through the letter box and members need to respond quickly if they intend to join us.
The planning and organisation of our major exhibition on the Fore Street improvements in 1961 prior to the Queen's visit (see back page) are moving forward apace with one major omission. We would very much like to hear from anybody who was there, in Fore Street or thereabouts on July 7th 1961 to witness the Queen passing along the redecorated street. If we have their contact details we can invite them to the opening of the exhibition on Friday 2nd October.
Have a good summer and I hope to see you all at the Exhibition.