Building a landmark

I SPENT last Sunday strolling around the Waterfront in Ipswich just checking on the progress of regeneration and marvelling at the transformation of this part of the town.

I SPENT last Sunday strolling around the Waterfront in Ipswich just checking on the progress of regeneration and marvelling at the transformation of this part of the town.

It was interesting how many other people were taking advantage of the sunshine, despite a bitter north wind, to use the open spaces both around the new developments and on the island site - which probably gives the best view of developments through the masts of hundreds of small (and not so small) yachts moored in Neptune Marina. There is no doubt that this will become a focal point for weekend strollers as well as evening diners in the restaurants and later, revellers in the new bars and clubs springing up in the area.

University Campus Suffolk last week received planning permission for our first major building on the Waterfront. It will fill the gap on the corner of the Marina between two residential developments and, we believe, be a landmark building that will enhance the area and attract even more visitors to this part of the town. I attended the planning committee and was extremely impressed by the process.

The university is a major development for the town and as such requires a huge amount of detailed assessment from the local authorities and puts a great burden on the hard pressed planning officers. The officers presented a very full and detailed description of the site, its history, including pictures of the buildings on the site 50 years ago, its context in the town and how the site and our proposals will fit into the overall vision for Ipswich.

Each application has to be considered on its own merits and yet be seen as a small part of a much larger picture and I was very taken with the great care that was given to all aspects of the planning application, including the opportunity given both to applicants and opponents to make their case.

Perhaps this is normal in planning applications generally; it was my first so I don't know. I am very sure though that we in Ipswich and Suffolk are well served by those people who develop the vision for our communities and those who carefully and pragmatically carry it out and bring the projects to fruition. The way Ipswich is regenerating and redeveloping seems to manage to walk the fine line between the needs of developers, who need to take risks, and the urban planners who wish to bring order to the area so that when finished it is one coherent unit. And of course it isn't just the planners. Ipswich is fortunate in having an active sense of civic pride and organisations such as the Ipswich Society do really valuable work in securing our heritage and shaping the future of the town.

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So while our own building was subject to detailed scrutiny in its own right it was also being judged on what it would bring to the Waterfront when the whole area is finished. If the planners have it right then their strategy will give us an area with new open spaces, walkways around the Waterfront and urban parks which link to the Victorian parks which are one of the glories of Ipswich.

When that happens it will be a wonderful place to work, walk and be entertained.

It is crucial to get the mix right: office space, shops and residential in balance all within attractive open space enlivened with art and sculpture. If this can be done the area will attract a diverse population as students, residents and visitors, and then the vision will be realised and Ipswich will have a completely new, attractive and really different quarter for us all to enjoy.

And those people responsible both for the big vision and the painstaking inch by inch progress needed to make it happen should take a bow.

This collaborative venture has involved ambitious developers, planners with vision and guardians of the town's history and character - it is this combination, with its in built checks and balances which will secure the long term development, prosperity and reputation of our town.

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