By Paul Geater
Friday, February 8, 2013
Frustration is growing in the town over the lack of development work at The Mill and Regatta Quay on the Waterfront.
2006: Demolition work takes place at two of the largest Waterfront plants – Pauls Maltings and Cranfields Mill – which are to become Regatta Quay and The Mill respectively.
2007: Work starts on both sites, the first of two towers at Regatta Quay is “topped out”.
2009: Work on the Regatta Quay halts with the skeleton of the second tower left incomplete.
Jan 2010: Regatta Quay developer City Living goes into administration after talks with its banker Anglo Irish. Grant Thornton appointed administrators.
May 2010: The Mill developer Wharfside Regeneration is put into administration by its bank Allied Irish. Baker Tilly appointed administrators.
Late 2010: Irish banking crisis. Toxic elements of major banks – including those to the two Ipswich developments – transferred to new body the National Asset Management Authority (NAMA).
November 2011: Officials from NAMA visit Ipswich Waterfront. As they now control both sites they decide to put them under a single administrator, Baker Tilly. They also reveal a masterplan will be drawn up during the spring of 2012 aimed at finding a way to restart work.
March 2012: Hopes rise that work on The Mill could soon resume. About two thirds of the flats remain unfinished.
February 2013: Still waiting for substantial work to resume on the project, officials speak of their frustration at the lack of progress.
The two developments were combined into a single unit 15 months ago – and at that time there were promises that a masterplan for work to resume would be drawn up within months.
However since then little has happened at the site – which includes the notorious “wine rack” skeleton of the second Regatta Quay tower and The Mill tower, the tallest building in Suffolk.
The site is controlled by Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) – the body set up to take on the “toxic debts” of Irish banks which failed in the financial crisis.
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer brought officials from NAMA to Ipswich in November 2011. After seeing the sites they agreed to combine the two sites under a single joint administrator, Baker Tilly.
At the time Mr Gummer was told that the masterplan would be drawn up within months and that should allow work to restart.
However there has been no substantial new work on the site – although some flats that were nearing completion at the time building work stopped in 2009 have been finished and sold.
Now Mr Gummer is getting fed up with the delay.
He said: “I am getting increasingly frustrated with the rate of progress with the Wine Rack. The new administrators have now been in place for over a year and we have still not seen much of what I have been promised.
“The wine rack is a blight on the town and needs to be dealt with rapidly if redevelopment is to take place. I am sure that Baker Tilly and NAMA have the right intentions but they now need to show some real action.”
Ipswich council chief executive Russell Williams said many at the authority shared Mr Gummer’s frustration, but he was aware that the administrator and its agent, Savills, were trying to move the development along.
He said that the experience of major dockside redevelopments in other towns and cities had been that they often got caught in recessions – leading to work being suspended for some time before they were finished.
Andy Redman from Savills said there was a great deal going on behind the scenes which should allow work to restart in the not-to-distant future, but he accepted things had moved more slowly than was hoped.
He said: “I can understand the frustration, but it has taken longer than we expected to establish who owns all the flats and to complete all the legal processes.
“We are there now and hope to have a plan to restart the work before too long.”
Mr Redman said the first work was likely to be the completion of The Mill tower before attention turned to the “wine rack.”
Nobody from Baker Tilly was available for comment.