Pipers Vale road looks doomed

I'VE always tried to sit on the fence in the great debate about whether a new east bank link road (or Gainsborough Link if you prefer) should be built from Cliff Quay to the A14 near the Orwell Bridge.

I'VE always tried to sit on the fence in the great debate about whether a new east bank link road (or Gainsborough Link if you prefer) should be built from Cliff Quay to the A14 near the Orwell Bridge.

It must be appalling to live on Wherstead Road or Landseer Road and have your homes blighted by heavy lorries passing most of the day.

However it would be a disaster if any more damage was inflicted to Piper's Vale - one of the more attractive wildlife areas in the town.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust was claiming victory in its battle to protect the Vale earlier this week after drumming up 500 objections to the proposed road. That is a good result for the Trust, although I'm not sure that that number from a county with a population of about 650,000 is particularly significant.

What could prove to be a far more lethal nail in the coffin of this proposed scheme is the fact that the Highways Agency has now taken a fresh look at the proposals and has apparently gone extremely frosty on the idea of a new junction on to the A14 near the end of the Orwell Bridge.

I had always thought this would ultimately be a more powerful argument against the new road than that of environmental campaigners, however well-intentioned they may be.

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Piper's Vale is beautiful. It is important to people in south east Ipswich. But the area isn't exactly without other attractive countryside - look at Bridge Wood, the Belstead Brook Park, and Foxhall Woods.

If there was a reasonable access on to the A14, especially if the road skirted around Piper's Vale itself, then the concept would have been well worth pursuing.

However the fact is that there isn't. When the Ipswich bypass was built, the road planners didn't even want the Nacton interchange to be part of it - the first junction east of the bridge should have been Seven Hills.

To try to squeeze another junction into such a short stretch of busy road is absolute madness. It would cause more traffic chaos and make crossing the bridge an even more hazardous task - especially in bad weather.

I have no doubt that the east bank link will once again be rejected when the borough's road needs are examined again next year.

That won't be good news for those people living on roads blighted by heavy traffic - but hopefully once the rejection is made final engineers can start to concentrate on finding more realistic solutions to their problems.

And remember, Ipswich traffic might be much worse now than it has been in previous years - but the town's roads are nowhere near as bad as those in other cities like Norwich and Cambridge.

What is needed now, to prevent serious traffic problems in the future, is a really long, hard look at the town's road needs - and some tough talking to developers who seem to be falling over themselves to built in the Waterfront.

I fear that in the anxiety to see developments like Cranfields, Albion Maltings, and Orwell Quay get the go-ahead planners have missed out on the chance of getting developers' money to improve road links to the area.

A road through Piper's Vale might be a no go - but that should not condemn the town to 21st century gridlock.

ALL these rows between Labour and Conservative councillors at Grafton House about who has built more affordable homes is very entertaining for political observers, but isn't actually making a big impact on the town's housing situation.

Labour is quite right to take a pot-shot at the number of “shared ownership” homes that are being built.

This is a concept that was flawed when it was first thought up by some university-educated boffin in the 1980s and should have long since been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Shared ownership is a nonsense - owning a proportion of a house and renting the rest effectively means that you are paying just a few pounds less than you would if you had a normal mortgage but you are stuck in a home you cannot sell (because half is owned by a housing association).

What is needed is good quality homes for rent - family homes with three or four bedrooms to replace those which the government forced councils to sell off in the 1980s.

And providing them is a duty that both Conservative and Labour governments have totally failed to address over the last 20 years.

It's all very well to insist that developers provide a proportion of “social housing” for housing associations when they put up big developments, but as we've seen in Ipswich and other Suffolk towns that means the supply of homes is taken away from bodies who know what is needed and handed over to organisations whose only concern is the cost.

To be blunt, developers aren't interested in the needs of those needing social housing - only in building small units as cheaply as possible. That isn't a criticism - it shows that they are fulfilling the commercial demands of their shareholders.

The best people to judge what social housing is needed in an area are those who have to pick up the pieces when people become homeless.

Like it or not, that is the local authority. The obvious solution to the current housing problem is to allow local authorities to do what they did between the wars and between 1945 and 1965 - build millions of council houses.

But central government, whoever is in power, cannot bring itself to allow local authorities to build more council houses.

That is a great shame - and it is a clear indication that Whitehall's prejudice against Britain's town and city halls is condemning millions of people to life in inadequate housing.