Differing fortunes for political leaders – but both optimistic about future of Ipswich

Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere have worked together to promote the Ipswich Vision.

Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere have worked together to promote the Ipswich Vision. - Credit: Archant

By the time the election result was announced during the early hours of the Friday morning, no one in the Corn Exchange in Ipswich was in any doubt who had won.

Results from elsewhere in the country, and the piles of votes on the tables showed that Ben Gummer had been returned to parliament long before Mayor Bill Quinton made the formal announcement of the result.

The battle in the town had been keenly-fought and tetchy, as you would expect in a key marginal seat. But there was clearly no love lost between the two candidates fighting to win the seat.

However, once the dust settled a strange thing happened. Mr Ellesmere retained the leadership of the borough council – and fairly soon after the election the two men found common cause in promoting the future development of the town.

They retain their political differences, of course, but they have been working together very hard to try to push ahead with the town’s redevelopment.

And both are looking forward to the future with optimism for the town centre.

They are both taking an active role in the Ipswich Vision board – and are happy to work together to ensure individual projects are pushed forward.

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Mr Ellesmere is particularly keen on pushing forward the proposals for the town centre and the Cornhill redevelopment. The council has also taken a leading role in pushing ahead with the commercial development of the heart of Ipswich.

The council leader said: “Over the last year there has been real progress in Ipswich town centre on all fronts.

“We’ve seen work on the Buttermarket centre and Tower Ramparts – or Sailmakers as we must now call it – but it is about much more than just the retail centre.

“There’s also a great deal happening within the business community along Princes Street, with work well under way on the old Fisons building and Birketts preparing to build new offices.”

Archant, publisher of the EADT and Ipswich Star, is to move into Portman House on Princes Street in the middle of 2016.

The borough has bought the former Hollywood nightclub building, which is expected to be converted into offices.

Mr Ellesmere said: “We haven’t started marketing that building yet – but already we’ve had a lot of inquiries about it. There is tremendous interest from people who want to move in there.”

His optimism about the future of the town centre is shared by Mr Gummer, and the two men have worked closely together to push ahead with Ipswich’s development since the election.

Mr Gummer said: “When you look at where we were at the start of the year and where we are now, there is no comparison.

“Everyone is signed up to the Ipswich Vision and we are all pulling in the same direction. We’ve already seen some significant developments at Tower Ramparts and the Buttermarket and more things are going to happen in the New Year.”

He is working hard to try to secure funding for the Wet Dock crossing from the government – it is seen as a vital project to regenerate the island site on the Waterfront and also to ease traffic congestion in the town centre.

All this has confirmed his optimism that Ipswich should have a strong future – especially if his ambition of improving its transport links with the capital and Cambridge are realised.

Mr Gummer has always talked up the idea of the region being “The California of Europe” – and feels that Ipswich, with improved transport links, fully developed Waterfront, and relatively low property prices could be very attractive for businesses.

They could have the benefits of being within easy distance of the capital without the costs that are associated with such a location found in other places in the south east.

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