Ipswich Waterfront

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    Ipswich Waterfront: Time to pull the plug?

    For many the Ipswich Waterfront is a 21st century project but digging into the history a little, the project is over 30 years old with early steps in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and despite being the sole tourism focus for Ipswich town we have very little to show for it.

    Ever since the Star Lane gyratory was built, alternative uses for the Wet Dock were sought. This included early developments of residential use of Stokebridge Maltings and Neptune Quay Bellway flats, building office headquarters for Contship (who relocated from Switzerland to Felixstowe and then to Ipswich), rennovation of Felaw Street Maltings and mix uses along Wherry Quay.

    The Ipswich Waterfront has been a pipe dream for getting close to half a century now. Development really started moving when Ipswich Ports Ltd sold Ipswich Docks to Associated British Ports in 1997. Regeneration of the area was almost non-existent until land was bought for University Campus Suffolk and today’s university’s two primary buildings – Waterfront Building and James Hehir building – were built.

    What was once Europes largest enclosed Wet Dock – is now a tiny, insignificant Waterfront area. The vast majority of significant settlements (towns or cities) in the world are build around a river or near the sea. Thus have what you can call a “waterfront”. You could argue that the quaint little waterfront area is special or quirky in its own right – but Ipswich is a large (and growing!) town so the area isn’t significant and cannot get away with what smaller settlements like Bury St Edmunds, Woodbridge or Aldeburgh could.

    The recent news of more public money being used to finance a stalled residential development coming just weeks after the “other” unfinished block of flats were finally finished and more public money was pledged for infrastructure in turn to attract investment to the part of town (yes the Upper Orwell Crossing – originally expected to cost just £28m) – must be a hint that no one commercially wants to invest in the Ipswich Waterfront with local politicians flogging a dead horse. Let’s not forget Suffolk County Council didn’t support the Wet Dock Crossing scheme and therefore didn’t include it in their Suffolk Local Transport Plan.

    Elsewhere, developers have been queueing up to develop housing for a long stetched out process which has taken decades such as the Northern Fringe and Adastral Park. During such time of the Ipswich Waterfront project hundreds of new homes have been built around the town – including council homes.

    If the University cannot attract developers to the area then there really is no hope. With a borough council that cannot wait for Northern Fringe to go ahead – even without infrastructure – surely they should now pull the plug on their support for the Ipswich Waterfront? Millions of pounds have been poured into the axis-switch agenda – the latest is pedestrianising Queen Street to tempt people to walk to the Ipswich Waterfront.

    A shuttle bus was short lived. They got funding and decided not to continue with it – wasn’t viable. A lack of public transport going to the Ipswich Waterfront. No link between the rail station and the waterfront… both Burrell Road and Commercial Road aren’t welcoming paths to there. Only a small handful of restaurants, cafes and a pub. No emphasis on keeping the area tidy. Still no tourist attraction for the Ipswich Waterfront. With the closure of the marina when the bridge is built, it could pave the way for the death of the Ipswich Waterfront. It couldn’t come sooner, hopefully it would then encourage the local government then to move on, cut their losses and focus on something else!

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