Where is the town heading?

WHAT kind of town – or city – is going to be here in 2016?The more I look at the planners' vision for Ipswich over the next 15 years, the more puzzled I become.

WHAT kind of town – or city – is going to be here in 2016?

The more I look at the planners' vision for Ipswich over the next 15 years, the more puzzled I become.

The Ipswich Local Plan is supposed to set out a framework for planners – to give them a broad indication of what should go where.

But some of the ideas are so off the wall that I've been left scratching my head at who came up with them.

And if politics is the art of the possible, then this document is surely conclusive proof that there's nothing political in Ipswich Council's planning department!

Just look at some of the suggestions in the plan – they don't bear any relation to the reality on the ground.

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The biggest headache facing the town over the next 15 years is road access to and from the town centre around the docks.

It's bad now. It will get far, far worse if nothing is done to improve things.

So what does the local plan suggest? A west bank relief road running parallel to Wherstead Road at the back of the homes on land owned by Ipswich Port.

It then wants to put a bridge over the New Cut and build a public road across the lock gates into the Wet Dock.

The Wherstead Road residents don't want it – they don't want traffic rushing past both the front and the back of their homes.

The Landseer Road residents don't want it – they realise that it won't take traffic away from their road.

And, vitally, the port won't have it. They'll dig their heels in, take the plan to court – and even if it was eventually given the go-ahead you won't see anything happening for about 20 years.

If this great plan did go ahead, what sense is there in the 21st century in building a major road over a swing bridge which will be closed to traffic for up to half an hour at a time – and will be shut for 20 per cent of the time.

It is ludicrous – yet the planners suggest that alternative solutions should only be considered if this scheme doesn't work.

The implication is that they're determined not to do anything else until this scheme proves itself to be a failure. Is that really responsible planning?

The other dock-related road scheme heralded in the Local Plan is the proposal for a change to the road network in the Star Lane/College Street area.

This would see Star Lane become a two-way street, and College Street, Salthouse Street and Key Street become a "Green route" for buses and cycles only.

That's a great idea – and vital if the Waterfront area is to be truly integrated into Ipswich town centre.

But without road improvements to take traffic away from the existing dock roads it's a recipe for disaster – guaranteed to bring the whole town to a standstill between 7am and 7pm Monday to Saturday every week of the year.

Of course, there will be objections to the proposals – and hopefully the inspector, when the plan is examined later in the year, will see just how flawed they are.

But if he or she is bamboozled by the council's presentation, then it could be really bad news.

We would have to be prepared to be stifled by traffic around the docks until kingdom come!

A FORMER Labour councillor could be standing against his old colleagues in May's all-out elections – as a Liberal Democrat.

Former Whitehouse councillor George King quit the Labour Party two years ago after a row about the conversion of the former Boys' Club headquarters in Bramford Road into a new Sikh temple.

He felt the area was losing a valuable community resource and not enough was being done for the ward, stood as an Independent candidate and lost to Labour candidate Trevor Payne.

"Whitehouse has been ignored by the council for many years. They aren't interested in this ward – none of the councillors live in the ward, no one's interested in it," he told me.

Whitehouse regularly attracts the lowest turnout of any ward in local council elections – and Mr King said he was considering making a political comeback.

"I'm thinking about standing for the Liberal Democrats in May. People told me they'd have voted for me in 2000 if I'd been standing as a Liberal rather than as an Independent.

"This area needs councillors who are prepared to fight for it," he said.

Mr Payne accepted that he and the other councillors for the ward did not live in Whitehouse – but said it did not affect the way the area was treated.

"There have been many improvements over the last two years – and others are in the pipeline. I don't know how much George knows about them," he said.

Whitehouse had been identified as an area in need of new sports and youth facilities, improvements were being planned to the paths across Whitehouse Park, and new equipment was to be installed in the playground there.

Discussions were also underway about opening a new community shop in one of two empty units in Ulster Avenue.

"First we have to establish whether that is something the community wants, if they would be prepared to support it," Mr Payne said.

"Whitehouse certainly is not being ignored by the council," he added.

I'm sure the council is well aware of the existance of Whitehouse, but it's difficult to avoid the feeling that the area has missed out on improvements to the town over the last few years.

When he was a councillor Mr King had a reputation among his colleagues as an awkward customer – but someone who fought like a tiger for the Whitehouse area.

That's a reputation he retained in the ward itself, and it brought him a respectable 224 votes when he stood as an independent.

Labour would be ill-advised to dismiss him too lightly if he does stand again.