It is with much sadness that I report the passing of Dianne Hosking in August after a short illness. Dianne may not have been as well known as other members of the Executive but she was hardworking, dedicated and had served the people of Ipswich for many years. Dianne represented Town Ward on Ipswich Borough Council between 1996 and 2002 and became Chair of the Development Committee. For the Society she organised Heritage Open Days, contacting building owners and putting together the excellent brochure. Dianne had made Heritage Open Days in Ipswich different by including a vintage bus to take visitors between venues, one of which was the Sailing Barge Victor. I also note the death of Vic Lowne, stalwart member of Ipswich Hospital Band but best known to Ipswich Society as one of the key players in turning St Peter's Church into a Concert Venue and Conference facility (Ipswich Society Awards evenings are frequently held there). Vic was Project Manager during the renovations.
I am disappointed with the alternatives offered by the five architectural practices chosen to transform the Cornhill (and incidentally by the presentation of these schemes in the Town Hall). In my opinion there is nothing new or revolutionary about any of them, and none deserve the investment they obviously require. I have a particular aversion for fountains, particularly in the public realm. They are extremely costly to maintain and across the country there are literally hundreds that were a good idea at the time, particularly in 1960s shopping centres, but all too soon became eyesores. Derelict and abandoned, our own useless example is situated above the underground spiral car park adjacent to the New Wolsey Theatre - has anybody ever seen it work?
One of the major problems with the Cornhill is the number of banking halls surrounding the public realm (and even with extended opening they present a lifeless facade to the square out of banking hours). The second problem, almost unique to Ipswich, is the reluctance of shoppers to divert off the 'golden mile', Tavern Street through to Westgate Street, and at least three of the schemes reinforce this, one with a line of masts, another with a line of seats, others with demarcation in the paving. All schemes mention the need to provide interconnection with the Waterfront but only one has a possible solution. Overall it's goodbye market, hello to... not much!
Ipswich Borough Council commissioned DTZ to research and write a report on the future of retailing in Ipswich town centre. DTZ recommended that any additional shopping space be created on the former Civic Centre site (owned since the Civic Centre was demolished by Turnstone Estates). The report further suggests that Cox Lane car park, sometimes called the Mint Quarter, which has been awaiting development since the early 1960s, be used primarily for residential use, and that The Link - the Star offices in Lower Brook Street - could be developed but not with a retail focus. The Society's view has been one of entrenchment rather than expansion, ensuring the heart of the town centre remains viable and attractive to retailers and shoppers alike. I look forward to seeing you at our Illustrated Winter Talks.