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Waterfront move for council?

PUBLISHED: 17:30 19 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:35 03 March 2010

LOCAL government in Ipswich could be run from a new purpose-built headquarters in the town's Waterfront area within the next few years.

It would replace the Civic Centre – the building recently described as having a "simple utilitarian charm" in a document that will have alerted estate agents from the Thames to the Wash.

LOCAL government in Ipswich could be run from a new purpose-built headquarters in the town's Waterfront area within the next few years.

It would replace the Civic Centre – the building recently described as having a "simple utilitarian charm" in a document that will have alerted estate agents from the Thames to the Wash.

The borough council is considering building itself new offices on land it should soon own near the Wet Dock.

That would allow the Civic Centre to be sold – either to be converted to flats or to be knocked down and the site cleared for total redevelopment.

The 16-storey building went up in the 1960s as a symbol of modern Ipswich in a country which, in cabinet minister Tony Benn's words, was enjoying the "white heat of

technology."

It's the largest tower block in Ipswich town centre. And it's a building that, until now, has had little charm – utilitarian or otherwise!

Earlier the Star revealed that experts had warned that it could cost up to £3 million to bring the Civic Centre into order for the 21st century.

Consultants have suggested that the best option for the council would be to move to new premises because the Civic Centre no longer meets its needs.

With more council staff now working outside the main offices – at local neighbourhood offices or at council facilities elsewhere – a smaller building could be used.

And staff working directly with the public – like cashiers and housing advisers, would move into a shop unit elsewhere in the town centre.

Council leader Peter Gardiner, confirmed that the Waterfront was getting serious attention from the borough council.

"Certainly the Waterfront option is one we are giving active consideration to," he said. "But I must emphasise that nothing is certain – and any decision is some way away."

Chief Executive James Hehir, said the move could happen within the next two to three years.

"It will be up to councillors to decide, but we have to have a decision about what we are going to do with the Civic Centre and our offices in the town within a reasonable period," he said.

It is not a listed building – and Mike Cook, of the Ipswich Society, felt that if a developer did want to flatten it, the town would not lose a gem.

"There are very important modern buildings in the town like the Willis building and the old Fison's head office in Princes Street – but the Civic Centre is not a great building," he said.

His opinion is shared by many people who work there. One senior council officer once stood in his office on a high floor and said: "This is one of the best views in Ipswich. You can see most of the town from here . . . and you can't see Civic Centre!"

While the Civic Centre isn't highly-regarded, other modern buildings in the town are.

Lord (Norman) Foster's Willis building is the best-known modern structure in Ipswich. The black-glass building attracts interest from architects and architecture students from around the world.

The Fison building in Princes Street is considered a 1960s classic because of its construction on stilts while the Odeon cinema, built in 1991, provokes much discussion from people who both love it and hate it.


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