Time for your say on development

WHAT will Ipswich look like in 15 years' time?That's the question that residents are currently being asked to consider - and it really is a time to speak now or forever hold your peace.

WHAT will Ipswich look like in 15 years' time?

That's the question that residents are currently being asked to consider - and it really is a time to speak now or forever hold your peace.

There is an assumption felt by most people that the town needs to grow, to get more homes, see its population rise. It's a view many of us agree with - and a view that central government is encouraging.

There are, of course, people who may think that Ipswich is large enough, as is Suffolk as a whole. They see any new developments as a threat to the character of their much-loved home area.

Without wishing to stir up any further arguments about some campaigners' motives, it is necessary to analyse the problem before we can start looking for solutions.

For a start the population of Britain is not increasing significantly at present - don't believe all these scare stories about Lithuanians, Latvians and Poles!

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What is changing, and has been changing for decades, is the expectation of people - especially young people.

In the 1950s and 60s young couples might have been happy to start their married lives with the in-laws until the first baby came along and then they'd start looking for somewhere on their own.

Now many people want their own home before they've even paired up - and certainly few young couples expect to start life together under the same roof as their parents.

Also, like it or not, there are more marriages breaking up so more people are living on their own.

All this means that the average number of people living in a home is much less than it used to be.

Between 1961 and 2004 the average number of people living in a British household fell from 3.1 to 2.3.

Other statistics bear out the need for new homes - the number of families increased during that same period by 2.6 million, but the number of households went up by 7.8 million showing that fewer people were willing to share a home with other families.

And the number of people living alone went up from less than two million to seven million.

That all means that the pressure for new homes is increasing - the trend doesn't seem likely to be reversed in the near future.

If people do end up living in larger households it tends to be because of necessity - they are unable to afford their own home - rather than because it is what they really want to do.

Given all this, then it is vital that there are new homes built in and around Ipswich and other towns in east Suffolk. The area has had an under-supply of good quality flats in the past. The developments in the town centre and Waterfront are addressing that situation - and should take some of the pressure off the “family homes” market as wealthy people without the time or inclination to look after a garden might prefer a penthouse to a five-bedroom executive house.

However the time is coming when the balance will tip back again, and the most desperate need that is developing in this area is for low-cost, high-quality family homes with at least three bedrooms.

Wherever they are built in the Ipswich area there will be opposition from people worried about the extra traffic they will generate, the loss of views, or the impact on wildlife.

I've always found that argument a bit spurious - you'll find much more wildlife in a patchwork of individual gardens than you will in a factory-farmed field.

What the Ipswich planning consultation exercise will do over the next few weeks is give you the chance to say what you would like to see and where.

It's the best opportunity people will get to really influence how the town develops - and standing still really isn't an option.

FORMER Conservative group leader Brian Jay, who died at the weekend, was a political rarity - someone who was genuinely respected and liked by colleagues from all sides of the political spectrum.

He was on the council at a time when the national political situation meant that his party was never likely to take power at Civic Centre.

But that didn't prevent him from taking a full part in the political process - and when Brian spoke people on the council listened.

He wasn't someone to oppose just for the sake of opposition. If he approved of what the Labour-led council was doing he'd say so. He was an Ipswich man through and through.

The town has lost a fine advocate - had things changed nationally a few years earlier he would have made a fine council leader.

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