Ipswich: In passionate defence of my town after being slammed by the critics

IPSWICH: The debate over the state of Ipswich, fuelled by a radio phone-in “cesspit” jibe, continues today - as reporter PAUL GEATER jumps to the defence of a town he is proud to call home.

As someone who has lived in the town for a quarter of a century, I found this comment offensive – and felt it said far more about the small-mindedness of the caller than it did about town I am proud to live in.

Ipswich is not perfect. There are many things that could – and hopefully will – be improved over the next few years and decades.

But some of the rubbish I’ve read recently cannot go unchallenged.

There have been many comments that crime is rife and the streets are much less safe than they used to be with murders, rapes, and stabbings happening all the time.

I’ve worked at the Star since 1982 and believe me the crime rate today is no worse – or better – than it has been at any time in the last 30 years.

It is just that you remember the stabbing you read about last week – you don’t remember the stabbings, murders, and rapes you read about in the 1980s and 90s.

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As a young reporter in the 1980s I would hear exactly the same thing about the town from older people who reckoned crime was rife and it was much less safe than in the 1950s and 60s. Older reporters told me then that they’d heard the same thing 20 years earlier!

We all look back on a “golden age” when we were too young to be worried about the crime stories because we were too busy having a good time. It is once we settle down and have children that we start worrying about crime.

And frankly anyone worried about crime in Ipswich would do well to compare the statistics here with those of places that are apparently more “lively.”

They might get something of a shock – Suffolk isn’t the safest county in England by having a lawless county town!

Ipswich town centre isn’t great. My family and I do sometimes shop in Norwich, Bury, or Colchester.

But the vast majority of our purchases do come from Ipswich shops and while we might grumble about the lack of a John Lewis or a larger Marks and Spencer, the shopping centre certainly has enough to offer us what we want most of the time.

The Waterfront is seen as the potential jewel in the crown for the town, but even that has come under fire because there are still undeveloped sites. You get that in a recession – and Ipswich is not immune from economic reality.

Back in the early 1990s as the blueprint for the Waterfront was being drawn up, I was sent to Bristol to see how the docks’ development there had transformed the city.

There was much development. But there were large expanses of wasteland and a couple of half-completed buildings where developers had gone bust during that recession. Sound familiar?

The entertainment in Ipswich is far better than in the past. The nightclub scene is alien to me but younger colleagues talk approvingly of several venues. And with two professional theatres, a multiplex cinema and a variety of restaurants the town has much to be proud of.

The Waterfront’s DanceEast is great – it may not come as a surprise to those who know me that I’m not that well acquainted with dance but there’s a very good cafe there!

There is much to be done in Ipswich. But the nation will emerge from the recession and when it does there will be many more developments around the Waterfront. That will bring in more money, and the two sections of the town will be joined.

That’s the good news. But sadly I’m also sure there will still be moaners who will say that the town isn’t as good as it was.

There will still be those who think the town is crime-ridden, there will still be those who think the grass is greener elsewhere.

I doubt whether they will ever see the good side of Ipswich. Which is a shame – it must be miserable to live in a place without being able to see its positives!

n Do you agree? What is your opinion of Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@ eveningstar.co.uk