Ipswich Vision looks very blurred after loss of its leader

Ipswich Cornhill

Is there still a realistic vision to take Ipswich forward? - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

The loss of Jackie Sadek as chair of the Ipswich Vision Partnership is ​potentially a big blow to the future development of the town – and all sides need to take a long hard look at how this happened.

To be honest, it's difficult to see this as anything other than the end of the Ipswich Vision. ​And delivering the "Connected Town" concept – the blueprint for a sustainable future for the town centre – could now be even harder. 

It has certainly left me questioning whether the various parties involved in the decision-making processes are capable of pulling in the same direction.

Jackie Sadek is the new chair of the Ipswich Vision Partnership.

Jackie Sadek's departure is a massive loss for the development of Ipswich. - Credit: Paul Geater

Let's make no mistake about this: getting Ms Sadek to take on the role of Ipswich Vision chairwoman was a massive coup for the town. She is one of the country's top urban regeneration experts.

But when you get a top expert in to do a job for you, you have to be prepared to let them get on and do what they think is right.

I can see why, her employer, Ipswich Central's reluctance to accept (although they didn't block it) the merger between Ipswich Vision and the Town Deal Boards would have made her position impossible.

Looking at where we are now, though, I wonder whether we will ever see a strategic vision for the development of Ipswich realised. Will we now just end up with some piecemeal improvements here and there?

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There was much to commend the Connected Town vision, but many of its proposals were just too difficult for any authorities to accept. There's no doubt that reducing cars in the Waterfront area would make that area more attractive, but no Ipswich politicians from either party seem to be courageous enough to accept that.

The issue about whether there should be one board or two discussing the future of Ipswich looks rather theoretical to most people, I know, but I suspect it was more of a red flag to Ms Sadek.

I haven't spoken to her about this – she's been unavailable on other business this week – but I do wonder if she was left questioning what she had stepped into when she came across all the various characters involved in discussions over the future of the town.

When I met her following her appointment, I was impressed by her genuine belief that Ipswich could be somewhere really special.

It is located just 70 miles from London. It has relatively good transport links. It is relatively affordable for both houses and business space. And its history and culture all should combine to make it a really desirable place to invest and grow.

She still seems to love the town and its potential – but now seems to feel she is not able to drag it in the direction she feels it needs to go.

After the events of the last couple of weeks, will investors – who follow what is happening in places they are considering pouring millions into – be put off putting their money into the town?

Overall, I remain concerned about the decision-making on the development of the town. Earlier this year I took aim at the politicians. They are certainly responsible for some of the problems in the town – but others also need to look at their actions.

There's no point saying "it's Ipswich Central's fault" or "it's the councils' fault". What is needed is for all sides to pull together.

If there is going to be any good emerging out of the events of the last couple of weeks, it could be that all sides take a long hard look at themselves and how they interact with their partners. 

If they finally realise they need to act as genuine partners and not as individual bodies watching their own backs, there could be something good coming out of a really sorry saga for the town centre.

It is also important that the single board that emerges out of this remains forward-thinking to get the best for Ipswich.