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Changing Ipswich waterfront

PUBLISHED: 15:00 10 August 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

FOR years developers have realised the potential of Ipswich Waterfront.

For years they've looked longingly at the sites around the town's old Wet Dock and worked out what could go where.

FOR years developers have realised the potential of Ipswich Waterfront.

For years they've looked longingly at the sites around the town's old Wet Dock and worked out what could go where.

And for years the area has failed to live up to its potential as delay, recession and lack of co-ordination prevented action from getting underway.

But over the last four years things have finally started to happen.

During the boom years of the 1980s, the first wave of development saw the opening of the Malt Kiln (now Cobbolds on the Quay), the new headquarters for Contship, Neptune Marina and the Neptune Pool Club.

The recession of the early 1990s put an end to new development, but over the last five years things have really started to take off again.

The largest developments have been the new Felaw Maltings business and the Bellway Homes Neptune Quay flats – which have given a boost to the opposite ends of the Wet Dock.

Over the last year dockside roads have been paved over – but there hasn't been the dramatic developments like those of the late 1990s.

And there is the unmistakeable whiff of caution in the air as companies are anxious to take stock as the economy hovers on the brink of recession.

But planning continues – and the area's evolution into a key centre for the town is expected to be maintained.

One of the first new developments to take shape is expected to be Neptune Marina's new £6 million Riviera-style development with shops, restaurants and 51 up-market flats will be built beside the water.

After the great success of their 69 waterfront flats, Bellway Homes are hoping to build another 29 beside them and the same number on the opposite side of the water, near the Felaw Street business centre.

But making a move to become a major player in the area is Persimmon Homes which wants to develop two areas on opposite side of the docks.

One would be off Bath Street on the Stoke side with 600 flats, another marina, hotel and shops.

On the opposite side of the water the company wants to build more shops, restaurants, commercial and residential units.

Another key player in the future development of the Waterfront now is the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) which bought the old Cranfields buildings.

The re-development of these buildings, at the town end of the Waterfront, is crucial for its future success.

A competition is placed to find a use for them – or the land they occupy. While most people agree it would be ideal to convert the attractive Victorian buildings lurking under the early 20th century cladding, many experts feel that might not be possible and it would be better to start with new high quality buildings on the site from scratch.

But it is likely to be years, rather than weeks or months, before any major improvement is seen in this area.

The former Burton's building by the dockside could also be turned into flats – but its future is not certain.

Perhaps the most hopeful news is that plans are being drawn up to build flats on the site of the burnt-out St. Peter's Warehouse at the very edge of the dockland area.

This is a key site, and a development there could help unlock the whole town end of the Waterfront.

A major problem facing the redevelopment of the area remains the traffic network around it.

The dual carriageway formed by Star Lane, College Street, Key Street and Salthouse Street still effectively cuts it off from the town centre.

And it also makes some of the most historically-important areas of the town effectively no-go areas for developers.

The most serious case of this is the area near Wolsey's Gate. The budleia that turned this into a paradise for butterflies has finally gone – and now there is hope that this could soon be developed.

Proposals have been drawn up to convert College Street and Key Street into a pedestrian area and make Star Lane two-way, councils have been unwilling to do anything about it, fearing it would only make the already-bad congestion in the area much worse.

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