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Ipswich Port is a success story but we must protect old waterfront too

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 February 2017

ABP's Ipswich docks. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

ABP's Ipswich docks. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Here’s a question for you, says Ipswich MP Ben Gummer. Which port in the United Kingdom last year exported more agricultural products than anywhere else? Felixstowe? Southampton? Hull? Liverpool?

None of these. It was our very own Ipswich. I bet you did not know that – and you would not be alone.

Our port is a hidden jewel in our local economic crown. Last year it handled 13% more than in 2015, which includes a 22% increase in exported cargo – a significant part of which was grain. In fact, Ipswich Port is now shipping more grain than at any point in its history.

It is a lineage that stretches a long way back. The archaeologists who are currently digging up the temporary carpark by the Paul’s building are scraping the old riverside where Redwald’s ships laid up 1,300 years ago, when Anglo-Saxon Ipswich was one of the most important ports in the country. Goods came and went across the quayside until a few decades ago, when the growth in the size of ships meant that port operations had to move down the estuary to the banks of Greenwich and Stoke.

Spiritually, it is still the same port and it boasts a continued use as great as any other in the country, bar London and Dover.

Nonetheless, because the port employs relatively few people compared with the town’s economy as a whole (about 300) and because the port sits largely out of view from most of the town’s population, it is something we collectively do not celebrate enough.

Given how it is leading the UK, perhaps it is time that we should.

Progress on Ipswich Flood Barrier

Meanwhile, we are in the process of protecting the old port – the waterfront – from the damaging effect of floods.

Last Friday I visited the enormous hole that engineers have dug in the entrance to the New Cut, which from the outside looks like a modest palisade of sheet steel. It is anything but: once over the metal, there is a vast dug-out pit, braced with massive steel beams, with all the rebar preparations down below awaiting thousands of tons of concrete due to be poured in the weeks ahead.

What’s it all for? This is the conclusion of a £58m flood defence scheme, the last piece to be filled in an iron and stone horseshoe that runs from where Belstead Brook meets the Orwell, up Wherstead Road and the West Bank, right the round the top of the river basin at the New Cut, across the Prince Philip Lock Gates, to down the Cliff Quay entrance to the port. It is a massive undertaking, now complete apart from the flood barrier to be installed in the New Cut. Clearly the work that has been done so far is almost entirely permanent, but you cannot put a permanent barrier across a tidal river, and that is where the barrier comes in.

This is none other than our own version of the Thames Barrier: a steel shield that swivels into place should there be a risk of a tidal surge that will overtop the river defences in the town. When raised – which will only happen every few years – it will withstand huge pressures and keep the sea tide at bay.

The result is that we can protect not only the waterfront but also all the low-lying land in the town centre, of which there is much. Older residents will remember the floods of 1953; this barrier will ensure that we shall never again endure the damage and distress that those inundations brought with them.

Most importantly, it means that we can continue to develop land in the town centre, safe in the knowledge that the houses and jobs there are not under threat. That means that this barrier, whilst very expensive, will allow us to bring many times that value in investment into the town – investment that otherwise could not have come to the centre of Ipswich.

It may be a flood barrier but when you see it finished, know that this is a protector of our future prosperity.

8 comments

  • Best to leave the docks as it is , the bridge idea is old hat , just go to Lowestoft and see how bad these bridges really are and the gridlock they cause once they have to open .

    Report this comment

    Macke

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • Is this an advert for ABP ports ? How much money will the private port owners be paying towards the Upper Orwell crossing ? How much money will ABP contribute to the two new bridges that will open up their private island ? ...Ben please answer these questions and why are SCC paying heavily to support this idea ..initial figures say it will cost us the local tax payer £20million for starters this will probably be doubled as costs rise , surely this should be paid by ABP if not why not ?

    Report this comment

    deeber

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • Is this an advert for ABP ports ? How much money will the private port owners be paying towards the Upper Orwell crossing ? How much money will ABP contribute to the two new bridges that will open up their private island ? ...Ben please answer these questions and why are SCC paying heavily to support this idea ..initial figures say it will cost us the local tax payer £20million for starters this will probably be doubled as costs rise , surely this should be paid by ABP if not why not ?

    Report this comment

    deeber

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • Nice try Ben! You and Geater write this in his lunch break? The Port is a success, we knew that. You will not stop the People seeing where the problems are in Town. I know your still sore about the Brexit vote (though you seem to have stopped insulting those who voted to leave, in print anyway), but we have real issues on our doorstep, and hopefully the next election will show People Power again. Unitary Rule anyone.....

    Report this comment

    Mike Derruki

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • If he enjoys the history aspect of the wet dock area so much why is he trying to destroy it with a bridge across it? More effort should be on the Ipswich Waterfront area. Pre-University, a Wet Dock Crossing was not such a silly concept. Post-University, waterfront development and modern town "place marketing" later... it is a silly idea. Only a dual carriageway Northern Bypass is a suitable 21st Century solution. The Wet Dock Crossing was a 20th Century idea which is now too late to be of any use. Renaming it to the Upper Orwell Crossing doesn't make it a good idea. The suitably named Orwell Unitary Authority on the other hand is a very good idea.

    Report this comment

    NorthernBypass

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • Being so dependent on one product makes the port vulnerable. A lot of farmers say they will not be able to survive the loss of EU subsidies and will go under, that alone would devastate the port. Yes, the govt has promised to match the subsidies until 2020 but that's not much of a promise as it's less than a year after we leave the EU. The article also shows what a half-baked idea the dock bridge is in comparison to a proper solution to the town's rapidly increasing traffic problems. Congestion costs businesses money and with traffic as bad as Ipswich it's often too much for smaller businesses. Traffic is the no. 1 local issue, why doesn't Gummer even acknowledge the problems the £21m Strangle Ipswich scheme has caused? He has lost my vote because of it, and others I know. We will be supporting whichever candidate comes out and openly backs a proper NBP and a solution that will fix the problems not just shift them out of town to residential areas as the daft bridge will do.

    Report this comment

    McLean

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • Might be a good idea not to start building bridges across the dock area then!

    Report this comment

    Dalesman

    Friday, February 10, 2017

  • Pick on one product Mr Glummer ... and the one produced by your farmer mates ... that is not representative of the success of a port.

    Report this comment

    Johnthebap

    Friday, February 10, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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