Travel and the town centre – the two key issues raised by readers in Ipswich Star survey

Traffic problems are a major concern for many who responded to our survey.

Traffic problems are a major concern for many who responded to our survey. - Credit: Archant

Two key issues dominated the State of Ipswich survey run in the Star over during the first two weeks of the year – traffic problems and the state of the town centre.

We had nearly 1,200 responses to the survey – and 83% felt traffic had got worse over the last year. More than 80% found it difficult to get around the town by car.

There is widespread concern about the town centre – with most people feeling there is not a good mix of national names and independent stores in the town.

As we revealed last week only 18% of people who completed the survey – the vast majority of whom were from Ipswich or the Kesgrave/Martlesham area – did the majority of their Christmas shopping in the town centre.

Nearly two thirds of those who replied felt that the retail mix in the town is poor or very poor – although on the plus side about two thirds of those who responded do visit the town centre at least once a week. One in five visit the centre of town every day.

Another issue causing concern is Immigration.

Nearly 74% felt that there was too much immigration into the town – and 72% felt it had increased over the last year,

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However according to figures published by the National Statistics Office and quoted on this page by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality the number of immigrants in Ipswich fell in 2013 (the last year for which figures are available).

Nearly two thirds of those who filled in the survey were aged over 45, with 21% 65 or over. Less than 5% were under 25.

More men (54%) than women (46%).

There are positives – most people who took part in the survey were satisfied with schools and hospitals in the town and Ipswich parks are recognised as being very good.

There is a more mixed view of the town’s housing and job opportunities.

The survey is expected to be studied by many organisations in the town and will come under particular scrutiny from those preparing for May’s general election.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said there was much to learn from the survey.

He said: “In many ways the results of this survey are not surprising: I receive similar views every day on the doorstep and in my mailbag.

“What the Star has done so well is to give people a chance to voice what they like and don’t like, and to give some sort of order of importance to that. Clearly there are some things that are going well: people value our parks, which are indeed exceptional, and the service of our hospital.

“But people’s worries are clear enough too: immigration, the state of the town centre, the availability of housing and – starkly – traffic. This is a direct message to politicians to address these issues.

“It is true that we have built far too few affordable homes in Ipswich – we are way behind other similarly sized towns; we must sort the traffic out, which is why I am fighting for a Wet Dock Crossing and a new northern route around the town; and we must urgently deal with the town centre, which has slipped behind other regional centres and is now in peril unless we can together come up with a single plan to improve parking and shopping, one that we execute quickly and together.”

Labour’s David Ellesmere was encouraged that so many people had taken part, he said this showed they were passionate about the future of Ipswich.

He said: “Immigration can be beneficial – it has saved the NHS many times in the past – but we need to make sure the system is fair and works for everyone.

“So we need to make it easier to deport foreign criminals, check people in and out of the country, and do more to stop illegal immigration.

“We need integrated, not divided, communities with people working in public services roles being required to speak English.”

The borough – which Mr Ellesmere leads – is building new council houses and it is hoping to see more private sector homes built.

He felt the town centre had weathered the recession better than many similar towns but there was more to do: “We have significantly reduced parking charges in the council’s car parks and this has seen usage increase.

“However we don’t control enough spaces to force others to reduce theirs – for example the NCP car park behind M&S which is still charging £3 per hour.”

He was not surprised by the concern about traffic, and described Travel Ipswich as a “£23m disaster for Ipswich.”

For full survey results, see the supplement in today’s Ipswich Star - buy your e-edition here