Call to kick start Mint Quarter

URGENT calls were today made to borough chiefs to kick-start the Mint Quarter project - or face having their powers to oversee the project removed.

URGENT calls were today made to borough chiefs to kick-start the Mint Quarter project - or face having their powers to oversee the project removed.

Labour county councillor Kevan Lim, who is backing plans to divorce Ipswich from Suffolk, has called for economic development policy to be stripped from the borough because of failures to get the project off the drawing board.

Kevan Lim, who is seeking re-election next month in the county's Ipswich St Helen's division, believes if the borough council is not prepared to stop the “appalling” dereliction of empty properties in Upper Orwell Street, then the powers should be transferred to the county.

Mr Lim accused Ipswich of pedalling a “just around the corner” promise for more than 20 years regarding the Mint Quarter, which had led properties to decay.

He said the result was that the area had become the most unattractive part of the whole town centre.

Plans for the Mint Quarter include a major shopping and retail development fronting Upper Orwell Street, which is due to become a major bus route as Upper Brook Street is pedestrianised.

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In a letter to Ipswich Borough Council's chief executive James Hehir, Mr Lim said: “The borough council has a major responsibility for this economic failure and I am therefore seeking your assurance that urgent action will be taken by the borough council to pressurise the owners in this area to improve the condition of Upper Orwell Street.

“I suggest the borough should follow the example of other local authorities who have used the well-being power under the Local Government Act 2000 to take action in such a situation.

“Several councils have used these powers to compulsory purchase property where in key strategic locations the owners have allowed their property to fall into dereliction.

“The situation in Upper Orwell Street cannot be allowed to continue.”

If the borough fails to act, Mr Lim said the county council should apply to transfer economic development powers from the borough using powers in the Sustainable Communities Act 2008.

However John Carnall, the executive member in charge of finance at the borough, accused Mr Lim of an election stunt.

“It is quite remarkable that he has kept quiet for the past four years, but now raises the issue just weeks before polling day,” he said.

“The council's officers are in constant talks with the developers to try to resolve the issues. But the recession, brought about by the economic policies of Mr Lim's own government, has made investment in new projects difficult.

“The economic climate is difficult for developers.”

Should Upper Orwell Street be revamped? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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