Bludeprint for town's future

WHAT sort of Ipswich do you want to see in 2031?

WHAT sort of Ipswich do you want to see in 2031?

That's the challenge that is being thrown down to borough residents as the council prepares to debate the draft local development framework next month.

The borough is required legally to put forward a planning strategy, and this has to take account of the Government's demands that Ipswich becomes one of the major growth areas in the six counties of the East of England region.

The Government is demanding that in the next 22 years, the Ipswich area must find land for 20,000 new homes, at least 15,400 of which must be inside the borough boundary.


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With brown field sites - that is, previously developed land - rapidly running out, the focus will be on the northern fringe, where it's likely nearly 6,000 homes will have to be built.

Yet plonking down 15,400 homes in one area brings with it the need for an adequate infrastructure - health centre, primary school, a district shopping centre, access roads, and a frequent, fast local transport network which will encourage residents to leave their cars at home when they travel to the town centre for entertainment, shopping and work.

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While the northern fringe could accommodate more than a third of the new build which ministers are demanding, other sites in the town will have to be used, which unless properly planned will lead to even more congestion on Ipswich's historic road pattern leading to and inside the town centre.

The central zone, and especially the island site on the waterfront, will be earmarked for housing development, while part of the St Clement's Hospital site will also become a prime housing development location.

The borough has also set itself the target that 35per cent of all housing has to be affordable.

New housing goes hand-in-hand with the need to create more employment. Ipswich, along with the Suffolk Coastal and Babergh district areas around the borough, will be expected to attract 30,000 new jobs.

Boarded up shops in the town centre negate the feel-good factor the borough council is trying to project. Although Ipswich has been one of Britain's fastest growing urban centres since 2001, there is still more deprivation in the town than anywhere else in Suffolk.

It is the 5th most deprived town in the region and is within the top 100 towns in the UK when it comes to levels of real hardship and inequality.

These are just some of the challenges which the development framework hopes to conquer. It's a complex document which, if endorsed by the borough council on September 7, will go out to public consultation.

But that is just another stage in the framework's progress to final approval and implementation.

The timetable envisages it being lodged with the Department of Communities and Local Government early in 2010. The Secretary of State - currently John Denham - will appoint an independent assessor to conduct a line by line examination-in-public and will consider arguments for and against the strategy.

A report will be prepared and whatever recommendations the planning inspector makes will be incorporated in the final document, which will then be regarded as the bible for development in Ipswich until 2031.

SHOPPING

NO room for complacency - that's the message in the policy document on the need to develop and improve the central retail and shopping area in Ipswich.

The town, which has lost out in recent years to rivals Colchester and Bury St Edmunds when it comes to attracting the big retailers, needs at least an extra 35,000 square metre of additional floor space.

To reverse the decline of the central shopping area, which like other towns has been hit during the recession by the closure of major high street names such as Woolworths and Zavvi, the council wants to halt further out-of-town retailing because it which reduces the chance of substantial investment in the centre.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

A FUTURE Ipswich would have trams, light railways or even monorails accessing the town centre, if the council gets its way.

This prospect has been put forward because without a sustainable transport policy, Ipswich will choke on the growing number of vehicles trying to access the town centre.

Continental Europe and cities in Britain such as Manchester, Nottingham, Croydon and Edinburgh have all boarded the light transport revolution, and the document says the council “aspires to an enhanced public transport scheme such as guided bus, urban light rail, trams or monorail.”

The county is in the last stages of receiving Government approval for a �25million scheme to improve town centre access for public transport, cyclists, and pedestrians. And although park-and-ride schemes operated by Suffolk county council have been successful in removing traffic, there is no such facility from the south-east side of the town

In recent years, a gyratory scheme for buses has been in operation around the town centre and future plans include turning Upper Brook Street into a pedestrian precinct.

If nearly 6,000 homes are to be built on the northern fringe, then a high quality public transport scheme will be needed to connect the site with the town centre using Westerfield Road and Henley Road. The proximity to Westerfield railway station, with direct links to Ipswich, Colchester, London, Woodbridge and Lowestoft, gives alternative opportunities for commuters.

THE VISION

THE document's aim is to ensure that by 2025, Ipswich will be a more vibrant, active and attractive modern county town. At the heart is sustainability, a place where people “aspire to live, work, learn, visit, and invest - all with a reduced carbon footprint.”

DOWNLOAD THE DRAFT PROPOSALS

http://www.ipswich.gov.uk/downloads/E-09-15_Appendix_4_Core_Strategy_1_.pdf

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