What is so wrong about Ipswich?

PUBLISHED: 16:58 19 January 2019

Buddleia growing from the windows of County Hall in 2012. Picture: Lucy Taylor

Buddleia growing from the windows of County Hall in 2012. Picture: Lucy Taylor

Ipswich has served its community and many who live outside of the town boundaries for countless years – so why do people talk it down?

Whether or not a district councillor meant Ipswich when he referred to a “cesspit down the road” (he says not), I feel the need to redress such a perception.

Exactly where do people imagine the wealth of Suffolk has come from?

Fishing? Weaving wool? Maybe once upon a time, but in the past century Ipswich has been a hub of industry and commerce, including a livestock market, docks and maltings, upon which so much of its surrounding area has depended for employment and revenue.

It is also home to the leading professional producing theatre in the county and has the largest venue (The Regent) for live shows.

We might ask if Ipswich has been a bit neglected by its county council? While the town is a wealth creator, the wider powers seem to have little enthusiasm for the investment in infrastructure it needs to sustain not only those that live there but those that work there, shop there and visit its restaurants, theatres and sports facilities... and use the Orwell Bridge.

There are many Ipswich people, myself included, who take a real pride in the heritage, culture and energy of the town. It is a town with a big heart and I love it.

I love the people who work in Marks and Spencer (please don’t go) who I have known for so long that they feel like friends; I love Young’s fish stall on the market; I love the busker who plays and sings Vincent and Fields of Gold; I even love the busking accordion player who never seems to get the tune quite right.

I love the independent shops in St Peter’s Street; the waterfront; the university; the medieval churches; the bells of St Lawrence; the statue of Cardinal Wolsey; the mansion.

Oh, and I love County Hall in St Helen’s Street, the old courthouse where Wallis Simpson got her divorce before marrying Edward VIII, who abdicated to be with her. I worked in the press office there for a couple of years and never tired of the building’s splendour, albeit faded. It had been left to fall into abject disrepair after the council moved to its swish new headquarters at Endeavour House.

I have looked at the planning application that proposes to convert County Hall into 42 flats and it seems to be sympathetic development with one, two and a couple of three-bed apartments. 
I do hope at last we will see this noble building rescued.

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