How can new Ipswich Vision boss bring new life to the town?
- Credit: Paul Geater
Ipswich doesn't punch its weight as the county town of Suffolk and needs to have the courage of its convictions - that's the verdict of the regeneration expert brought in to chair the Ipswich Vision Partnership over the next few years.
Jackie Sadek first got to know Ipswich when she was working for the government in 2014 and admits it quickly became one of her favourite places because of its history, its position and the potential for the future.
She retained her links with the town over the last few years and now has taken on the role of coordinating its regeneration with the help of Towns Fund grants.
And she accepts there is a big job to do, as she told the leaders who interviewed her for the role when asked about the plans for the future: "I said, 'they're great guys, but they've got nowhere since they were first published in 2016!'
"I don't take hostages. I've got two speeds - it's full on or it's stop. If you don't want some strong medicine you don't want me because I don't mess about. I've seen how brilliant Ipswich can be but its probably in a sweet spot right now - it's probably only got this one chance to really, really punch its weight."
She said the town now had to get on and sort out the town centre and the connected town concept: "Every town in the country has got too many shops, too many empty shops. We need a strategy to deal with that.
"Ipswich is in such a good position because it's got the medieval street pattern that is good for walking. It's chock full of historic assets. If you were an American town you would give your eye teeth for these assets. This is an amazingly beautiful place."
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She said the Waterfront so near the town centre was a fantastic asset. "The first time I came to Ipswich I arrived about 10pm at night and stayed at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel. I woke up in the morning, pulled back the curtains and looked at the marina and Waterfront. I could have been in the south of France!"
She wanted to turn Ipswich into a destination for people across Suffolk: "Everywhere I look I see opportunity. I can't see anything an urban regeneration professional like me wouldn't want to find."
Ms Sadek said it was vital to attract people back into the town centre - and there needed to be action to ensure everyone felt safe there in the evenings. "The public realm has to become proper public realm and we have to get the people back."
She thought it would be good to have a masterplan focussed on people to look at how people actually use the town centre.
But while she knows how to approach urban regeneration, Ms Sadek accepts she is not the expert on Ipswich. "The experts on Ipswich are the people who live here and have known the town for years. I shall listen to them, to hear what they say the town needs."
Her contacts within government are important: "I will be going back to my former colleagues and saying to them 'what have you got in your cookie jar for Ipswich?'
"We have got the Town Fund deal. We have got a lot of investment from Homes England - but there is more that can be done."
Ms Sadek plans to be a regular visitor to Ipswich and expects to spend a great deal of time meeting people in the town - and wants to see areas of concern.
One issue she wants to tackle is to ensure the town looks good enough for people to take pride in it - ensuring projects like the restoration of Arras Square and work to replace damaged paving across the area is completed as a priority.
Jackie Sadek knows she has taken on a big job, but she's a woman with mission. As she said about her previous government job: "I think it's inevitable that when you do that job you end up with some favourite places. And Ipswich became one of my pet projects."