Much work still needed to get county town back on track

The new junction at Civic Drive has caused traffic misery for many drivers in Ipswich.

The new junction at Civic Drive has caused traffic misery for many drivers in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

Two years after Sir Stuart Rose’s “Depressing place” speech at the Beacon Ipswich conference, it would be churlish to say nothing good has happened in the town.

But in truth the improvements so far have hardly scratched the surface and the speed of work is turning out to be painfully slow.

Travel Ipswich has effectively been a total nightmare. The new Civic Centre junction looks better than the old Greyfriars roundabout, but the impact on traffic has been disastrous.

There are now long queues of traffic stretching back to the Waterfront area at all hours of the day and the only answer from the “traffic managers” at the county council is that they will look at new computer controls at some unspecified time in the future.

The project which should have been completed four months ago is still going on and there is no firm date for the crucial Queen Street/Princes Street work to start – I sometimes wonder if the traffic planners at Endeavour House have seen that the scheme has failed to live up to their hopes and have lost interest!

Last Christmas they suspended work, but still left so many cones around that the traffic chaos carried on anyway. I have no confidence that the same thing won’t happen this year, and I understand that some bus companies share my worries.

But it isn’t just Travel Ipswich that has to be sorted out.

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The whole town centre needs a facelift to bring in shoppers and to become a destination befitting a major county town.

St Peter’s Street and St Nicholas Street are looking better. But the heart of Ipswich still needs urgent attention.

The conversion of Tower Ramparts to Sailmakers should help – but the real key is the reworking of the Cornhill.

That seems as far away as ever. The borough has pledged a quarter of the cost but no other money is on the table – the county council is the key, but they are refusing to commit themselves until everyone else has committed themselves.

That’s a recipe for inertia – but as there isn’t a single member of the Conservative administration at Endeavour House who actually lives in Ipswich should be we be surprised about their enthusiasm (or lack of it) for Suffolk’s county town?

In truth Ipswich’s problems aren’t unique. Norwich centre is also a shadow of its former self – Castle Mall has been hit for six by the newer Chapelfield Centre and I was staggered by the number of vacant market stalls during a recent visit.

But what is irritating in Ipswich is that there is a vision for the future – it just seems very difficult to get everyone to pull together to reap its benefits.