I'm writing because I am truly annoyed at the lack of imagination shown in the proposals for the market square (Cornhill). Although there was recently a consultation about what should take place there, it seemed to me to be superficial and manipulative: it didn't quite ask if we are all in favour of motherhood and apple pie, though all but...I have a few comments to make.
The market stalls should be an asset in terms of quality, price, choice and variety. In my view at the moment it competes only on price. Compare it with other successful markets. For example, I work in Chelmsford and often do my shopping there on a Friday because the quality of produce and the choice and variety is excellent, whilst still giving the same value that people expect from markets. I haven't met a single person who doesn't like the Ipswich market, though people often forget on which days it's held. The Council has a pivotal role in enhancing what could be considerable asset if the stalls were better. Perhaps rather than being moved it should be treasured and extended.
As for the suggestion that the area should be used for coffee drinking: is this seriously being put forward by professional planners? a) Are the local coffee retailers so overwhelmed with custom and profit that they are pleading with the council to introduce more competitors? b) Do people continually complain that the one thing that's wrong with Ipswich is that there is nowhere to get a decent cup of coffee? I suggest not.
I used to live near Portobello Road and the now defunct business start-up agency there gave out as standard issue information on how to start up a coffee shop. The area had no need for a single additional coffee shop: new ones lasted only months. There seems to be a similar lack of thought, imagination and business planning in the Ipswich market square proposals.
I can't detect the strategy. What are the desired objectives? What's the budget and financial plan? What investment will the town put in for itself or is it all to be dictated by the business strategies of commerce? For example:
Is the idea to get more people into Ipswich? Which people? What profile, what spending power?
Is it to increase the commercial turnover on the town?
Is it to increase commercial profit?
Is it to provide young people with activities? What activities? Ones that require them to spend money? Ones that meet the ever increasing need for after school activities and post school age learning? Something worthwhile to do?
Is it to provide social intercourse, interest and learning for all ages?
Many of the above are sorely needed and it is often those ones which require some considerable financial investment and commitment whose returns will be made not in money but in health, happiness, lower crime and lower illness.
What are we prepared to spend in order to achieve that? There is huge need in Ipswich for employment, for skills to be taught, for premises for education. The important point about this is that we already have in Ipswich the people with the skills and time who can provide these- but apparently no resources, time or administration willing to bring these together.
Whilst it is true that there are far fewer jobs than there used to be, it's worth remembering that a job isn't an end in itself. People work for what jobs provide: food, clothing, rewarding occupation, self-respect etc.
Ipswich has the knowledge, premises and skills to provide all these and create a vibrant community. What effort and expense is the town prepared to expend in order to achieve this?
Here are two further ideas.
The Clerkenwell Studios in London have for many years provided unique and much needed workshop facilities for many skilled craftsmen. The old County Hall cries out for such use.
Near Waterloo, there is the excellent workshop, the Goodlife Centre (www.thegoodlifecentre.co.uk ) that teaches essential skills to make, mend and repair. Ipswich needs something like this here so much.
I've been in Ipswich for only four and a half years, though I've known Suffolk since my childhood. In this time I've come to appreciate greatly the philanthropy of Felix Thornley Cobbold. What he did for Ipswich is reasonably well-known although perhaps not as much as it should be. My point is that we have Christchurch Mansion and the park (much else besides, too) because of him, not because of the Council who, remember, at the time were prepared to tear the Mansion down and build over both it and the park. Perhaps this time, too, it won't be the Council that helps the people of Ipswich: certainly not if the best it can do is suggest, heaven help us, more coffee shops and more trees in planters.
I suggest that the time has come for local individuals and organisations actively to consider how best to help the people of Ipswich.