OPINION: Projects in Ipswich should benefit the many, not the few

Could local shopping centres like Meredith Road get a boost from the Town Deal? Picture: CHARLOTTE

Shopping parades in Ipswich could benefit for funding from the Town Deal fund - Credit: Charlotte Bond

For many people, it is inconceivable that an elected MP for our county town of Ipswich would be excluded from many of the important decisions and decision-making bodies affecting that town. Yet, that is the very situation that I experienced as the Member of Parliament for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich for over 10 years.

You may have thought that the strength of two MPs working together for the benefit of Ipswich would be obvious. But, a combination of long-established and vested interests combined with sometimes poor relations between rural Suffolk and its county town meant that Ipswich had failed to grasp this opportunity. 

All that changed when Tom Hunt was elected as the MP for Ipswich in 2019 and when the Government created the Town Deal Board in 2020.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter were among the signatories to the letter.

The two MPs for Ipswich, Tom Hunt and Dr Dan Poulter - Credit: ARCHANT/HOUSE OF COMMONS/PA WIRE

Tom and I work well together for the benefit of the town and the Ipswich Town Deal will result in over £25million of Government funding for our county town. It will be the vehicle through which more Government money will come to Ipswich in the future. The board brings together the business community with MPs, council leaders, and many others from across the Ipswich community. 

Too often in the past, the focus in Ipswich has been on projects and ideas that would benefit the few and not the many. The Town deal board, backed with the £25million of Government funding, has changed this and has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people living in all parts of the town.   

I have personally been championing the local shopping parades project. The importance of local shops was brought home to us during the pandemic, and yet many shopping parades have become run down and lack important parking facilities or easy access for people with disabilities.

With almost £3million going towards Ipswich local shopping parades, parts of the town like Whitton and Whitehouse will now receive their share of attention and investment. 

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Government money going into Ipswich is good for the rest of Suffolk. In particular, money going to the University campus for health and social care training, as well as towards creating new jobs at the spirit of yacht academy, will bring more opportunities for young people throughout the county.

Perhaps the biggest thing that we all want to see is a revitalised Ipswich town centre, a town centre which is more attractive to visit and for shoppers.

The move to online shopping has meant that town centre shops have been facing difficulties for many years and this has been turbocharged by the pandemic. Like many in other towns, Ipswich town centre will need to change and the Town Deal board and money has provided the opportunity. 

Just as importantly, some of the old structures in the town are changing for the better too. It has long been the view of many, that Ipswich has too many organisations with overlapping, and sometimes competing, agendas for the town.

The Ipswich Vision is now set to merge into the Town Deal Board following a recommendation tabled by the new and independent Ipswich Vision Chair Jackie Sadek; a proposal I am very happy to support. Ipswich now has two MPs who are working well together to secure investment for and deliver for the town. In the long run, more money for Ipswich and regeneration in our county town can only be good news for all of Suffolk.

- Dr Dan Poulter is the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.