Gallery: Waves of enthusiasm for the dream of Ipswich’s Waterfront wonder

The attractive Waterfront area of Ipswich - a vision that became a reality

The attractive Waterfront area of Ipswich - a vision that became a reality

IT is more than 30 years since the dream of reinventing Ipswich’s Wet Dock as the Waterfront was ignited at the Maritime Ipswich festival in 1982.

Paul Geater looks at the vision from the early 1980s – and how it turned into the Waterfront of the 21st Century. Back in 1982, Ipswich held its first Maritime Festival.

At the time the Wet Dock was still a largely industrial area – although the writing was already on the wall for the businesses that formed surrounded it.

Commercial ships were getting larger and fewer were able to into the Wet Dock to reach factories such as Cranfields Mill or Paul’s Maltings.

Maritime Ipswich was always designed to showcase the possibilities of developing the area for other commercial, housing and leisure uses – following on from the example of the redevelopment of the London Docklands which was gathering momentum, as was redevelopment of other dockside areas in places such as Bristol, Gloucester, Hull, and Hartlepool.


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A masterplan was drawn up for the redevelopment of the Wet Dock – and a third of a century on it is interesting to see how much of this vision has, or has not, been achieved.

Part of the vision put forward in 1982 has come about, albeit in a slightly different form to that envisaged at the time.

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Orwell Quay was always seen as a having the potential for housing development.

The vision at the time foresaw low-density housing there, but we have ended up with a mixed development of houses and flats.

At that stage there was little attention paid to Paul’s Maltings or Cranfield’s Mill which were still operating – the prospect of major redevelopment there seemed a very long way off.

Another major development that was not expected during the 1980s was the establishment of a university. UCS is now the cornerstone of the entire Waterfront development.

However, one element that has not developed as expected in the 1980s is the Island site.

This was originally seen as a major leisure-based area, and its redevelopment would be the first stage in the rebirth of the Waterfront.

However, apart from the establishment of the Ipswich Haven Marina, it has remained an essentially industrial area – with the Fairline Boats establishing its major depot on the site.

In the long term there are still hopes of building homes and leisure facilities on part of the Island site – but there are difficulties in getting some services, especially water and sewerage, to such a location.

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