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Ipswich Council has let the town down by failing to complete Cornhill work

PUBLISHED: 08:08 05 April 2019

The temporary barriers are still in place at the Cornhill in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The temporary barriers are still in place at the Cornhill in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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I've been an enthusiastic supporter of plans to renew Ipswich Cornhill since it was first proposed by Lord Stuart Rose in 2012.

The concrete plinths are now stained by the metalic plaques. Picture: PAUL GEATERThe concrete plinths are now stained by the metalic plaques. Picture: PAUL GEATER

I felt the work took too long to get the money together and get the plans approved – essentially there were so many public consultations the plans changed several times.

But when work started I liked the look of what was proposed – and when the barriers came down in November I felt it was a great improvement on what had been there before.

Now, however, I share the concerns – and frankly exasperation – of the Ipswich Society’s John Norman about what has happened to the Cornhill over the last four months.

Frankly Ipswich Council should be ashamed of itself for the way it has allowed what should be the jewel in the town centre to deteriorate and start looking unfinished and uncared-for.

The Cornhill fountains should be switched on again on Monday.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Cornhill fountains should be switched on again on Monday. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

I accept I may be in a minority, but I found the Four Arches interesting when they were put up – and felt they would be accepted by more people once they were polished and the Cornhill was completed once the town’s Christmas Tree was taken down.

But since then there’s been no sign of this happening – just prevarication and self-manufactured delays from the powers that be in Grafton House.

I know there was a real tragedy on the Cornhill in January when John Stow fell down the new steps and died in hospital the following day.

The council was quick to announce a safety audit by an independent expert, which was a good move, and certainly gave the impression that the results would be through quickly and action taken fast.

We had the planters installed at the top of the steps – which actually improve the look of the Cornhill as well as improving safety – but then nothing for three more months!

The council hasn’t said who the “independent safety expert is.” I know whoever it is will be looking to produce a thorough report. But more than three months? That does seem really excessive. The planters seem to be doing a good job, look fine and I haven’t heard of any more accidents, so why are we still waiting?

And while this report still has to emerge, the Cornhill has been allowed to fester. The temporary barriers put in front of the step that had caught people out even before January’s tragedy are starting to look really shabby.

We had cleaners move into try to make the Four Arches look better. They failed miserably. The artwork is now looking grottier by the day as rust stains seep into untreated concrete.

I wonder if the borough’s delay in completing the work has meant that it is now impossible to make it look half-decent and it may be that there is no alternative than to remove these expensive pieces of concrete.

It’s difficult to know exactly who is responsible for this shocking state of affairs at the borough. I suspect there has been a “Manana” attitude among some officers – not doing today that which can be put off until tomorrow.

But that doesn’t excuse senior councillors – they should have been in there kicking the backsides of their staff to ensure that the work was completed much more quickly.

We have, at least, now got a series of events planned for the next few months that will take place on what is, in places, still a building site.

The fountains are going on again on Monday (why on earth they weren’t switched on during the fine weather at the end of March I don’t know. Probably the pen pushers would have had to spend the week filling in forms to confirm the early start to the summer).

We’re now told that the safety report will be published in “two or three weeks.” As that was the impression given (even if not explicitly stated) in January I won’t be holding my breath.

When it is published, I suspect the council will look for reasons to delay its implementation (well, there’s a farmer’s market due in three weeks so we can’t possibly start until after that!) and we’ll be left with months more tat to look at in the heart of the town.

Which is all very disappointing.

Ipswich Cornhill does have the ability to be a really attractive heart of the town centre. However the total lack of urgency to get on and do the necessary work there by the borough council has left it looking shabby and unloved.

I really hope the programme of events can bring new life to the town centre – and that visitors will be able to overlook the fact that the borough doesn’t care enough to get it finished.

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