As I write this we are just coming up to another Heritage Weekend. The brochure lists many interesting buildings, many of which can't normally be viewed by the general public. There will be free rides on a veteran bus provided by the Transport Museum. I do hope many of you will have availed yourselves of this programme.
The Society has for many years been calling for Ipswich to become de-cluttered. There are dozens of examples of unnecessary traffic lights, road signs and road fencing which are an eyesore, an expense and also counter-productive to road safety. It is therefore very good that Eric Pickles, the Government minister, has come out strongly in favour of the campaign and is instructing local government accordingly. Your committee will continue to press for a big reduction in clutter on our streets, and if you have any examples of such, please let us know - we can all help in this.
The economic slowdown continues and I am afraid will only accelerate in the New Year when VAT increases and departmental cuts (local and national) begin to bite. The effects so far are clearly displayed in our town centre. Shops closing or closed are very visible and disturbing. We must, however, preserve perspective. There are some new businesses opening, for example Paperchase in the old Dixon shop in Tavern Street. We must also record that UCS has now completed its second building on the Waterfront - to be named the James Hehir Building in honour of Ipswich's former CEO. This is a teaching building with specialist facilities. The building behind it, nearer Duke Street, Athena Hall, is purely student accommodation and should shortly be completed.
The housing market continues to decline slightly and there are a number of vacant units around the Waterfront. The state of the market, I'm afraid, will mean that the unfinished developments at the Stoke Bridge end will remain skeletal for some time to come.
Recent crime statistics show that once more nearly all crime rates are reduced. I know there is some scepticism about how reliable these figures are, and there are big differences in the methodologies of the two measures. But by either measure crime rates are the lowest for many years with recent steady improvements year on year. What is not so welcome is the number of people who fear crime. The public perception is that crime is high, despite proof to the contrary. Fear of crime is high - actual crime is low. We must do all we can to reduce this irrational fear, so often trumpeted by some sections of the press.
Peter Underwood, in many ways a founder of The Ipswich Society, is our sole Vice-President and is now settled happily in a home in Holbrook. Your committee will recommend to our next AGM that two additional Vice-Presidents should be appointed. The AGM will make the decision.