Reasons for hope in Ipswich

DESPITE everything from the last couple of weeks, I'm still rather optimistic about the future of Ipswich over the next few years.We all know that the University is coming, but the decision over the last few weeks to press ahead with improvements to the Regent Theatre and go ahead with building a new Olympic-sized swimming pool really does look like good news for the town.

DESPITE everything from the last couple of weeks, I'm still rather optimistic about the future of Ipswich over the next few years.

We all know that the University is coming, but the decision over the last few weeks to press ahead with improvements to the Regent Theatre and go ahead with building a new Olympic-sized swimming pool really does look like good news for the town.

The university will have an enormous impact, changing the character of the place and introducing a buzz about the town that doesn't exist at present.

But I can't help feeling that the other developments will have more meaning to the people who actually live here.

It will be great to watch concerts and shows from seats that you don't think are about to collapse, or you can't feel the springs in.

It will be great to have a pool large enough for the Karen Pickerings of the future to train in without having to travel to London or Norwich.

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There have been some nasty things written about Ipswich over the last few days - one particularly sour piece came from someone who clearly had an unhappy time in the town as a child and wasn't prepared to accept there was anything good about the place.

Whatever she may think, there are many people in this town who are working to improve the place and indeed are succeeding in that quest.

We've seen great improvements at the New Wolsey Theatre over the last few months and there is the promise of a new life for the former Odeon cinema.

What is now needed is for some of the big retailers to realise just how big and significant the place is and to beat a path to the doors of the borough council and the developers of the Mint Quarter.

All this national media attention has been for the worst possible reason - but the fact is that no one in Britain can be unaware of where Ipswich is now.

This period is clearly our darkest hour. But there is much to look forward to in this town. Christmas is a time for new hope - everyone in the town will be hoping for brighter days in the near future.

AS the dreadful events of the last two weeks have unfolded, one positive to have come out of the tragic murder of five young women is the determination of the people of Ipswich to work together.

This determination to fight back - and the compassion for the victims - reflects great credit on the community of Ipswich.

And the community leaders have to take a great deal of credit for that.

At a time when the eyes of the world are on the town, the area's civic leaders - its political leaders, its business leaders, its top police officers - have done Ipswich proud.

And so have the ordinary people who have found microphones and cameras shoved into their faces as they go about their ordinary work in the town centre.

TV companies may have described borough council leader Liz Harsant as “Liz Halston,” but that didn't throw her off her stride in describing very eloquently the shock and distress felt by her town.

And Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke has done a very good job in telling the world that it isn't just urban Ipswich that has been affected by the killing spree - it has shocked the whole county.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole was in parliament most of last week which gave him the chance to speak to his colleagues about the pain the town was going through - and enabled him to ask one of the first questions to the Prime Minister last Wednesday.

Of course all these people have an interest in portraying the town in its best possible light despite all that is happening - but it is easy to fluff your lines when the camera is turned on.

They didn't and they have all shown themselves to be a credit to the town.

POLITICS in Ipswich has taken a bit of a back seat as people have pulled together to get over a real crisis for the community - but I suspect we will not be far into 2007 before this truce finishes.

Already there has been criticism from Labour about the amount of money the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration is spending - or not spending - on community safety.

And as councils struggle to bring their budgets in within government targets early next year, there will be some very painful decisions to be made over the next two or three months.

Happy Christmas to you all . . . and an interesting New Year!

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