Grafton House no monstrosity

NOW that officers from Ipswich Council are all settling into their new home in Grafton House, they're starting to have to dodge the incoming artillery from the Suffolk Preservation Society.

NOW that officers from Ipswich Council are all settling into their new home in Grafton House, they're starting to have to dodge the incoming artillery from the Suffolk Preservation Society.

“The building is one of the worst in Suffolk,” we hear from the Lavenham-based organisation. “It's a missed opportunity.”

Now I've never been the greatest fan of the Suffolk Preservation Society, although having had a constructive chat with director Richard Ward I accept that it really does have the interests of the county's villages at heart.

I can accept that its comments about developments in some of the picture-post communities across the county have validity - but its whinge about Grafton House does seem wide of the mark.

When I saw the artist's impression for Grafton House about 18 months ago, my heart did sink somewhat - it looked very functional.

And when it was going up, it didn't really look a thing of beauty either.

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But now it is finished, set in a tree-lined avenue and sat between Suffolk's Endeavour House and the new crown court building I really can't see what is so bad about it.

In fact I'd echo the words of Ipswich Society chairman Jack Chapman who said that the new building is not outstanding, but is no worse than dozens of other major buildings that have gone up in Ipswich over the last three decades - including Endeavour House which the SPS seems to think is so wonderful.

So why has the SPS left countryside controversies behind and decided to lob a brickbat at a building that its director has never been inside?

Is it not a bit rich to start criticising a building that the society really doesn't have any direct knowledge of?

In short, shouldn't the SPS keep out of controversies in an urban environment and leave them to heritage groups who know what they are talking about!

The SPS claims that the inclusion of Grafton House was as a result of it being nominated by so many members of the public - not by the Society itself.

But Mr Ward did say: "This is a missed opportunity for the Council and local planning authority to show to developers in the town how to produce first class modern architecture. It fails to match the high standards achieved at Endeavour House."

Had the Ipswich Society, whose members live and work in the town, fired a broadside at Grafton House then I'm sure the council and others in the town would have paid attention.

But when the attack comes from a group which hasn't seen the finished article and fires its missiles from the comfort of a Tudor building in Lavenham the borough can be excused for feeling a bit miffed!

HARDLY a day goes by without us hearing a new revelation about councillors' lunches - and frankly the whole business has turned into something of a dog's breakfast!

I'd always been led to believe that the lunches were provided because it was cheaper than having all the councillors claim their allowance.

Then it turned out they were paid for by an old legacy. Then it turned out that this legacy had run out and nobody had noticed!

Now the lunches have been stopped and councillors have been told they should buy themselves something at the staff restaurant.

They are entitled to claim more than £8 for these - but Tory and Liberal Democrat members have said they will not take any money for these.

Labour says its councillors have more important things to worry about than whether or not they should claim for lunches.

What struck me was the revelation that providing councillors with meals before their meetings cost “considerably more” than £8 a head.

One councillor told me: “We always got a veritable feast, four courses with home-made soup, a choice of main courses, puddings, and a cheese board.”

Until a few years ago this was all washed down with half a bottle of wine and copious amounts of gin and tonic.

Frankly I'm staggered that any councillor ever managed to stay awake until the end of what can be quite lengthy meetings. The only thing that can have disturbed the peace at County Hall must have been the sound of councillors snoring!

I'M delighted to be able to report a minor success after my comments about the borough council's apparent attempt to hide the delights of the Orwell Country Park.

The leaflet has now been posted on the borough's website and I'm told it is in the process of being updated.

There will also be new leaflets printed which will be available at both the Bridge Wood and Piper's Vale car parks.

So the next time I go for a walk around the park I shall probably end up complaining that it is rather overcrowded!

nTo find the Orwell Country Park leaflet, go to: www.ipswich.gov.uk/Services/Parks+and+Landscapes/Orwell+Country+Park/

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