Waterfront needs the right balance

IPSWICH Waterfront has had a significant last seven days as construction work has started on The Mill - the new homes and dance studio which will replace Cranfields and the official launch of the neighbouring Regatta Quay development on the site of the old Albion Maltings.

IPSWICH Waterfront has had a significant last seven days, as construction work has started on The Mill, the new homes and dance studio which will replace Cranfields, and the official launch of the neighbouring Regatta Quay development on the site of the old Albion Maltings.

These developments are very welcome, but my heart did sink a bit when I heard that the entire first phase of The Mill has been sold, more than a year before anyone can move in.

That means these flats have not been bought by people who want to live on the Waterfront - unless of course they are unbelievably patient. They must have been bought by people who see the flats as a buy-for-let opportunity.

I have nothing against individuals who are buying flats to let, because high-quality rental properties are vital for a well-balanced housing market. However what concerns me is that if all the flats are snapped up by investors putting their money into the buy-to-let market then the market will become unbalanced.

This will make it very difficult for the new flats on the Waterfront to really become a community - to really feel part of Ipswich.

There is already concern that so many of the flats in the Persimmon development on Orwell Quay are being rented rather than bought outright.

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Very few people living there have registered to vote in Ipswich. That might not sound important, but it is an indication that they don't feel part of the community here. They don't have a stake in the town.

You will inevitably get some people who feel that way. There needs to be rented accommodation for those who only ever plan to spend a few months or a year working in the area.

What would be a disaster for the Waterfront is if too many of its residents felt that way - that they were just passing through Ipswich with no real interest in the community itself.

That is why it is vital that a significant proportion of the new homes being built in the area are owner-occupied, or at least rented by people who see this town as their long-term home.

Some properties are being held back by the developers. Let us hope the developers have the confidence to only release them when they are nearing completion to ensure they go to people who want to live in them.

If that happens we really will start to see a community developing around the Waterfront - and that will be good news for the whole town.

I'VE never heard our Ipswich politicians squirm quite so much as they did this week when they I called them about the forthcoming cuts to the town's bus services.

After months - if not years - of telling us to get out of our cars and on to public transport to ease congestion and pollution, they suddenly had to justify why they were taking money out of the bus company which would see a reduction in services.

And I got the distinct impression that some of the councillors who were having to make those justifications were not happy with the situation.

Transport spokesman and former Conservative parliamentary candidate Paul West seemed particularly uncomfortable with the decision, conceding that there was a “conflict” between squeezing cash out of the company and trying to get more of us on to the buses.

What is really disappointing about the council's decision to squeeze the bus company is that the town is actually in a very fortunate position so far as its public transport is concerned.

Legally the borough is not allowed to directly subsidise public transport - except for concessionary fares - but as the owner of Ipswich Buses it is able to effectively help it run for the benefit of passengers.

In the past by not forcing it to hand over its profits, the dividends have been able to boost the company's income. It has meant that the needs of the passengers came first, not those of the shareholders.

It has enabled the bus company to invest in new buses which have attracted new passengers. It has enabled it to boost services around the town, giving more people the chance to leave their cars at home.

And it has helped to abolish the image of buses as the poor relation of public transport.

All these improvements are now under threat as Ipswich is faced with the prospect of fewer services costing higher fares and operated by older buses.

It is clear that many councillors within the administration are very uncomfortable about that fact - but have felt compelled to go along with it in a desperate attempt to keep council tax levels as low as possible.

What is so sad though, is that the savings will not be noticed by most households - a few pence on the bill is quickly forgotten over the year but for those from Dales Road or Sheldrake Drive the loss of their service could have a dramatic effect on their quality of life.

Last week I was pleased to be able to report on the bus company taking delivery of six sparkling new vehicles for the Chantry route.

It seems that it will be several more years before I do a similar report.

I just hope that in the meantime we don't have too many reports of increasing congestion caused by travellers forced into their cars because of a lack of public transport in Ipswich.

I'VE got very little time for the News of the World's royal reporter Clive Goodman.

By using phone taps to get exclusives on the royal family he brought shame on my profession.

His reputation as a reporter is now shot and he'll have difficulty in getting work anywhere in this business. But at a time when prisons are already full, was it really necessary to jail him? Is he more of an immediate risk to the public than the paedophiles who were freed because there was not a prison cell available?

The message that the judges and Home Secretary seem to be sending out is: if you're a paedophile and your victims are children you might get away with it, but if you mess with the rich and powerful we'll throw the book at you. And I thought society had evolved since the Middle Ages!