Business owners hit out over controversial Ipswich Register Office move
- Credit: Jason Noble
Owners of businesses near Grimwade Street in Ipswich have hit out over news that the register office is to move, due to staff safety concerns.
A well-known local shop owner and pub landlord have said they are "disgusted" and "flabbergasted" - and accused Suffolk County Council of "simply walking away".
The council has reported regular anti-social behaviour close to its registration service office at St Peter House in Grimwade Street, and confirmed 22 staff will move into refurbished space at their Endeavour House HQ.
Steve Grimwood, owner of Elmy Cycles in St Helen's Street, said: "This isn't a bad area - but what we are concerned about is that, if buildings are left empty without a plan in place, they will make it a bad area.
"If the council simply walks away from the building and leaves it to rot, it will encourage anti-social behaviour and vandalism."
Mr Grimwood has sent a letter to council leader Matthew Hicks, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, PCC Tim Passmore, Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere and others voicing his concerns.
He said in the letter: "How on earth did we arrive at a place where the answer to anti social behaviour is to simply move out?
"When exactly did the prestigious 'education quarter' of the town become somewhere we can simply abandon? It’s not Afghanistan, is it?"
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He added: "So, what about those of us left behind who don’t have the choice to simply move out, those of us that invest our own money in the area and work hard to keep our staff safe?
"How can the SCC continually be allowed to simply walk away from buildings and leave them empty, destroying areas – County Hall, County Social Club, etc, without any comprehensive management or forward plan on what comes next?"
Ady and Karen Smith, landlords of The Dove Street Inn, have also written a protest letter.
Mr Smith said: "I am upset and to be totally honest, in fact disgusted by those that are making these decisions.
"I have had many years working and paying over the odds business rates, due to our hard work and our investment, but you can decide to walk away rather than address the fact that you have failed in your duty to protect the businesses and residents of the area."
He called for action to tackle anti-social behaviour and added the local businesses had asked for street lights to be turned back on in Rope Walk and for new CCTV in the area, but this had not been done.
"The Education Quarter should be somewhere we should be proud of, not afraid of.
"We should come down hard on those who want to destroy what our parents and grandparents fought for and see justice for those that cannot have respect for their fellow people."
Mr Smith added: "Thank you, councillors, for all you have done to kill another part of the county town of Suffolk, and I wish you all sleep well with your decisions. We won`t, as we have to deal with this on a daily basis while you go home at night."
Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Moving the county council’s registration office from St Peter’s House into Endeavour House will modernise the Registrar service offering and improve the overall experience for customers and staff.
"The relocation of this service has been in discussion for some time with senior officers at Ipswich Borough Council and there are a range of very clear, practical reasons."
“The current location at St Peter House is no longer fit for our service delivery needs. It is not fully accessible to people with mobility issues as there is no lift access to the appointment rooms on the first floor so people currently need to climb two flights of stairs. This is something which cannot be easily rectified due to the nature of the building.
“There are also health and safety concerns with the current location, as staff often need to access the building alone after regular opening hours, often during darkness. The new location at Endeavour House will offer 24 hour security and will also reduce the Council’s energy use, carbon footprint and running costs by bringing the services into an existing County Council building, reducing the burden on tax payers.
“Whilst reference to anti-social behaviour has been highlighted through the media, it is clear that the many driving factors for this relocation are based around the desire to improve customer service, improve access, realise energy savings and reduce running costs where possible.
“Any concerns regarding anti-social behaviour have always been taken seriously by our partners at Suffolk police and Ipswich Borough Council who are responsible for community safety and we will of course continue to support their efforts going forward.”