Many people find it hard to understand why there are so many flats being built in Ipswich when it seems that the greater need is for family houses, especially ‘affordable’ ones. It’s not a problem unique to Ipswich. The proportion of new homes that are house rather than flats has fallen nationally by 25%. Houses now account for just over 50% of total development compared with 80% in 2000.

The situation is worse in those towns enjoying a renaissance in city living. Figures for Ipswich are not immediately available but in similar towns elsewhere back in 2000 some 15% of new homes were high rise appartements: now it is 75%! There is a dual reason for this growth which is particularly clear in Ipswich.

The first is the availability of land – or rather the lack of availability of suburban space for semi-detached and detached houses. But brownfield land close to the centre of towns like Ipswich commands a high price and thus demands high density. Government Planning guidelines also demand high density building to maximise use of the space. Hence the massive apartment blocks on the Waterfront and nearby.

The second reason is demand from purchasers who include divorced and separated couples, at least one of whom needs a smaller property, buy-to-let investors who prefer maintenance-free managed property rather than older stock, speculators and commuters.

As for pricing in this market, within any development there are the penthouses and the ’front row seats’ with their Waterfront views commanding high prices, usually substantially more than the true cost of construction. And there are those apartments that don’t have a view, where the developer fixes the price to sell, a price that isn’t necessarily related to the build cost, but is more likely akin to what a buyer can afford, i.e. the typical salary of a 25 year old multiplied by five, which is the likely building society loan on that salary. Add the required deposit and, importantly, a contribution from a second income and the price of the cheapest property is decided. Which still leaves a poor family needing an affordable house!