Chatham: Why Ipswich Needs To Rethink Its Waterfront Strategy

Discussion in 'Local Politics' started by dan5, Aug 8, 2017.

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  1. dan5

    dan5Founder MemberStaff Member

    This place popped up on Homes Under the Hammer the other day, out of chance I saw it despite not watching the programme... I was intending to have wrote a post on it before but it slipped my mind. Until now. This is my opinion and not that of any resident from Chatham or their council.

    There is no point making too many direct comparisons between Ipswich and Chatham – but I think you will find this topic very interesting. A lot of its modern economic success can be claimed to be from the High Speed 1 rail link, either way with some flaws in between they have done pretty well to regenerate their town and surrounding areas.

    Chatham used to be a borough until 1974 when it became part of a district. In 1998 it became a unitary authority with other Medway towns. It had been a Royal Navy Docks for centuries of some 400 acres and built ships including HMS Victory.

    Let's jump in and look at the map...
    So excusing the rough markup of text on a Google maps image... their dockland regeneration includes some of what Ipswich councils have tried to do. A marina exist, a university and housing on an island site.

    Ipswich Waterfront's Wet Dock was a port and not a significant ship builder. So not surprisingly we don't have the heritage ship building element. There is plenty of evidence to suggest some activity has occurred in and around Ipswich in building and repairing marine vehicles of different sizes.

    One of the most significant elements they have included within their regeneration project was Retail/Shopping of some magnitude next to the marina. In Ipswich, the council are aware of the need for mixed-use retail centres as is their excuse of the cinema and restaurants in the town centre former-shopping centre and the endless coffee shops and restaurants elsewhere... despite this they have still zoned the waterfront without any significant retail. Anywhere else would have built a shopping centre instead of the Wine Rack.

    In Chatham, this is despite Bluewater (and slightly further lakeside) and London in very close proximity. There is also a lot of competing regional centres... Maidstone, Ashford, Canterbury. Arguably Paris too.

    The University... very clever. Built on land which was HMS Pembroke Royal Navy shorebase, the Medway Campus is actually a collaboration of 3 universities - Greenwich, Kent and Canterbury.

    The housing (St Marys Island) next to the marina on a large plot of land... well developed with industrial zoning to the east. I don't know (without looking it up) if this entire land was once (in recent times) industrial or disused brownfield land.

    The tourist attraction (ship building heritage) Chatham Historic Dockyard. Photos at the ready...

    (new housing in the background St Marys Island)

    Looking on streetview around the area it wasn't all perfect (but I am not going to pick faults).

    The regeneration here works. It has a strong naval shipbuilding history with the buildings to match.

    The claim-to-fame of Ipswich Waterfront is the Anglo-Saxon dock (quite naturally none of it survives, what we see today is the Victorian Wet Dock). The first settlement of the town occurred not far from the railway station and football ground - not the wet dock. Old Custom House as nice as it is - without a doubt my favourite building at the waterfront - isn't the original one. The history of that building is 1845 I believe, Ipswich is a 7th century port.

    Ipswich is full of gems everywhere but the wet dock. I do like the area but it isn't the best area to focus as a "heritage destination". I criticise "Roman" Colchester for its primary attraction being a Norman castle but what they are trying at the waterfront is even worse.

    Promote our heritage gems across the town and promote the Ipswich Waterfront as a secondary modern leisure area. It will work. Local people already go down there for Issacs and restaurants...

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