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Ipswich Icons: The visions for Ipswich that didn’t make it

PUBLISHED: 11:56 01 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:56 01 January 2018

Custom House Square was the proposal to link the 47 Key Street scheme with the Waterfront.Picture: VIA THE IPSWICH SOCIETY

Custom House Square was the proposal to link the 47 Key Street scheme with the Waterfront.Picture: VIA THE IPSWICH SOCIETY


A New Year: A time for predictions. A time to dream of what might be forthcoming. A time for me to look back at previous dreams of buildings that didn’t quite make it into reality. Schemes that have left a legacy of empty sites and undeveloped spaces.

The vision for St Peter's Port: the site between St Peter's Church and St Mary at the Quay. Picture: VIA THE IPSWICH SOCIETYThe vision for St Peter's Port: the site between St Peter's Church and St Mary at the Quay. Picture: VIA THE IPSWICH SOCIETY

Sites that do, however, offer opportunity for developers to create outstanding architectural contributions to the town.

Herein lies the danger: we mustn’t accept “anything” just because it’s better than nothing.

A poor building will remain a non-contributor to the environment long after the void it filled is forgotten. Ipswich – county town, university town, visionary town – deserves better than “ordinary”.

I’ll resist the temptation to start with “The Wine Rack” because at last the contract has been signed, the builder is engaged and the elusive car stacker (the mechanical car parking device hidden in the core of the building) is being fabricated.

Tesco Gratfon Way:A  CGI of the superstore that never was.Picture: VIA THE IPSWICH SOCIETYTesco Gratfon Way:A CGI of the superstore that never was.Picture: VIA THE IPSWICH SOCIETY

A typical example of the type of site to which I refer is Grafton Way and the demolished B&Q warehouse and adjacent car park.

Tesco were full of enthusiasm, the promise of 700 jobs and economic well-being when they proposed what was to be the largest food store in East Anglia, together with 129 residential units and two hotels.

Luckily for Ipswich, Tesco had second thoughts on the way we shop and abandoned plans for massive stores across the country. The site is currently for sale.

On the corner of Grimwade and Waterworks streets, formerly Peter’s Ice Cream and Portia Engineering, a developer (Luminis) applied for planning permission for 400 student bedsits, clearly of the opinion that the university was set to grow at a much faster rate than the academics had predicted.

The proposal was functional and acceptable but not outstanding, and after a reality check and enrolment count the scheme was shelved.

Part of the site today is a car wash which utilises the scruffy partially-demolished ice-cream factory.

The scheme for 47 Key Street was dramatic and extensive: the former offices of Pauls’ (Pauls and Whites) in the building that follows the curve of Salthouse Street into Key Street.

It included a dramatic new square linking the scheme to the Custom House, a 12-storey tower block and the renovation of Pauls’ offices. Today the site is a car wash.

St Peter’s Port was the name given to the vacant site behind St Peter’s Church, where the renowned architect Piers Gough designed a scheme consisting of three hotels and a shopping mall, together with flats and offices.

The mall was to have a glass roof such that as you shopped you could glance up and see the church tower towards the west, St Peter’s and, towards the east, St Mary at the Quay.

The former offices of Burton, Son and Sanders, a listed building currently being renovated, were to be a restaurant, and the anchor in the shopping mall: a Tesco store.

Possibly the most controversial scheme was for an old people’s home on the corner of Bolton Lane and St Margaret’s Street, the former Kwik Fit exhaust centre.

A significant number of objectors suggested the site should remain open, a green lung in one of the most polluted streets in Ipswich.

Planning permission was granted for student bedsits but neither this nor the residential care home came to fruition and we are left with a car wash!

The best hope for development could be the gateway site adjacent to Stoke Bridge and St Peter’s Wharf, the entrance to the Wet Dock.

There are a number of different sites squeezed in between Bridge Street and Foundry Lane, including the concrete silo (with a blue octopus painted large on the side facing the Novotel roundabouts), the former Burton’s factory and the remnants of the fire-ravaged Oil and Cake Mill, now a temporary car park. Ipswich Borough Council have been buying plots in this block, assembling the site for future development, and here we really do hope for an outstanding building that is worthy of welcoming visitors to the Waterfront (or at least those who don’t need their cars washing).

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