Great ideas from blueprint – but Ipswich cannot see this as “all or nothing” plan
- Credit: Archant
The Ideas for Ipswich document produced by planning consultants Allies and Morrison is packed with ideas for the future development of the town centre.
Commissioned by Ipswich Central, the report has very thought-provoking designs to take the town forward to the next level – and really does need to be regarded as a positive contribution to its development.
However it is not perfect – there are some proposals that appear to be unrealistic and one that, to my mind, would be a huge mistake.
One of the most positive, and eye-catching, proposals is turning Lloyds Avenue into an entirely pedestrianised area and creating new restaurants on either side of the street with outside seating.
Having eaten outside in European cities, I love that idea. I really hope the planners see the benefit in that proposal.
Department stores like Debenhams are under massive commercial pressure – and the idea of creating restaurants facing on to Lloyds Avenue in part of its ground floor must look appealing to its bosses.
The idea of turning the old Odeon into a music venue has its merits, but I’m not sure that the Mecca Bingo Club members would agree (and this is a very long-term aspiration, there are no immediate plans for a change).
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But overall Lloyds Avenue is a bit of a neglected gem in the town and I really hope it can become something more than one large taxi rank.
Another, potentially more controversial, idea is closing off College Street and Key Street to traffic and turning Star Lane into a two-way street.
This would allow Wolsey’s Gate to be shown off in its full glory for the first time in more than a century – and to create a new “St Peter’s Square” that could be a real link between the Waterfront and the town centre.
I would love to see this happen – it would be a fantastic, historic gateway to the oldest part of Ipswich. It was the ability to build a bridge in this area that persuaded the early Anglo Saxons to found the oldest English town.
But I fear the cowardice of councillors and their officials at the county council will ensure it never happens because they simply won’t be able to move quickly enough.
Because if the roads were to be closed they would have to start thinking about it now. College Street and Key Street would have to shut to traffic on the day the Upper Orwell Crossings open in 2023.
It’s no use thinking you can open the bridge, see what happens to traffic, conduct a public consultation, employ consultants and then close these roads three or four years later. That is far, far too late.
If you leave the roads open once the bridge is open, traffic will continue to use them AND the bridge. Roads attract traffic like honey attracts wasps!
Once the bridge and existing road network are both open, public opinion (ie the drivers’ lobby) will dictate to councillors that the roads can never close and the opportunity will be lost.
The idea of creating a Riverside Park between Stoke Bridge and the Princes Street Bridge looks great – why not extend it further along the Orwell towards the Bobby Robson bridge?
However I have to take issue of the idea that we should re-locate leisure facilities at Cardinal Park (including the Cineworld Multiplex) to the other side of Grafton Way to put them nearer the river.
That is totally unrealistic – and to come up with that kind of idea might make it more difficult to press ahead with the redevelopment of the former B&Q site for which planning permission has been granted.
There is an expression in planning “Do not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.” In a perfect world with a blank canvass all the way from the old Greyfriars to the river you might be able to put a cinema next to the water – but when there’s a perfectly good leisure park operating, don’t muddy other proposals by mucking around with it!
And I was disturbed to see suggestions that the river itself might be dammed to allow boats to use it as an urban lake between the bridges.
The tidal River Orwell might not look pretty to us at low tide – but it is a magnet for wildlife. Just look at the relatively rare birds you can see there in the centre of the town.
These proposals have many positive points – but they all need to be seen as individual proposals for particular parts of the town centre, not a huge masterplan for the future that has to be implemented 100% or not at all.