OPINION: Back to business - these are the council's plans for Ipswich

The Ancient House in Ipswich - did it once hide a king?

Bringing the Ancient House back into use is among the Ipswich Borough Council plans - Credit: Archant

Now the elections are out of the way for another year we are looking forward to a full programme of work delivering on our campaign promise to Invest in Ipswich.

We will be pressing ahead with our major council house building programme. Our new flats on Grimwade Street have recently been completed and look stunning. Work will now start on schemes at Ravenswood, Bibb Way, Hawke Road and Fore Hamlet which will see over 300 new homes built.

We know what a lifeline our parks and play areas were for families with young children during lockdown. It is likely that, as a source of free activity, they will become even more vital as the cost of living crisis worsens. 

Our promise of a major programme to revitalise play areas was very popular on the doorstep. Over the coming year we will deliver the first upgrades at Alderman Road Rec, Castle Hill Rec, Fen Bight Circle, Gippeswyk Park, Hawke Road, Holywells Park and Damselfly Road.

Many people are rightly concerned about the town centre, battered by two years of Covid on top of existing challenges from internet shopping and out of town retail and now facing a slowdown in spending caused by the cost of living crisis.

We are investing to bring new businesses to the town centre. The Botanist has recently opened in the Old Post Office and is proving a big hit.

We are working with Suffolk County Council to bring Registry Office ceremonies to the Town Hall which will increase the number of people coming into the town centre. We are closing in on deals to bring Ancient House and the former Little Waitrose back into occupation.

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Following the successful bid to the National Lottery we will start a major £8.7m renovation of Ipswich Museum, the largest in its entire 140-year history, bringing the museum to life for a new generation of visitors. We have also won grant funding to work with Out Loud Music to bring St Stephens church back into use as a live music venue.

Following a two-year Covid break, we will restart our major summer events programme including the ever-popular Ipswich Music Day.

This year we are trialling a new Music Weekend with Ipswich Jazz Festival and Global Rhythm in Christchurch Park on the Saturday during the day with more music at town centre venues in the evening.

Following our successful £25m bid to the Towns Fund we are hopeful that we will receive the money from the Government soon which will enable work to proceed on projects to improve the entrance to the Waterfront and build a new bridge across the lock gates, bring empty town centre properties back into use with an £8m regeneration fund, improve public spaces and increase the amount of greenery in the town centre as well as improvements at Suffolk New College and the University along with investment in local shopping parades.

We are also working up major bids to the Government’s Levelling Up and Shared Prosperity funds.

We will start work on a brand-new state-of-the-art carbon neutral works depot as part of our commitment to make the operation of the council net carbon zero by 2030.

Although there will be a huge number of positive things happening in Ipswich over the coming year, I do just need to draw attention to something more negative we are also going to have to deal with.

The cost of living crisis is not just affecting households, it is affecting the council too. Inflation is forecast to reach 10% and our major source of income – Council Tax – is limited to an increase of 2%. It doesn’t take a financial genius to realise this is going to leave a gap in the council’s funding that will have to be addressed. 

This may well involve some difficult decisions but, as with the major cuts in Government funding we suffered over the last decade, we will do our best to protect vital services and ensure that the most vulnerable are protected.

- David Ellesmere is the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council.