Written by Cllr Ian Fisher
The idea for 3500 homes on the northern edge of Ipswich has been discussed for decades, originally called ‘The Northern Fringe’ the title of ‘Ipswich Garden Suburb’ was settled on a few years ago.
Since the ideas were first spoken of Conservative Councillors, especially those representing North Ipswich wards, have fought hard to ensure the interests of residents living close to the development are given a voice.
There is a proven need for more housing in the area, this is not challenged. I do have concerns that many of the housing need projections that currently set building targets for councils were calculated when we were EU members. Freedom of Movement had a massive effect upon population growth, something that has now ended. There will undoubtedly be a decrease in demand over the coming decades which needs to be considered when granting permission to large developments.
During the past few years, it has become apparent that this development will be taking place. It is a named development within the Ipswich Local Plan, making it an essential part of the additional housing allocated to Ipswich. Outline planning permission was granted in January 2020 for the part of the site designated as Henley Gate, comprising of 1100 homes.
Once this happened our main role as Councillors is to ensure the development is as good as it can be, a development Ipswich can be proud of, one that has inspiration & aspiration at its heart. This will be the biggest development for decades so it is important to set high design standards which will then have to be met by future developments.
And so it was that the first reserved matters applications came before the Planning Committee of IBC in early June. This is where the finer details of the development are decided. These Applications covered phase 1 infrastructure works such as roads, drainage & sewerage and the first 130 homes.
These would be the first homes on the entire 3500 house development so would set the bar for all future housing applications making it vital for the future prosperity of Ipswich.
Rather disappointingly the application lacked in many areas and was premature in coming before the committee. Information was lacking in many of the major infrastructure items such as sewerage & drainage. There were objections from SCC about speed limits & parking with the SCC Floods team also expressing reservations.
The primary road does not meet the minimum size standards of the Chartered Institute for Highways & Transportation and SCC have advised against this.
Amazingly, in a development that has not even been built there is already mention of retro-fitting speed reduction devices on the roads and conducting a traffic survey, once the development is complete, to see about further changes.
The landscaping is underwhelming for what is being marketed as a ‘Garden Suburb’. Too much emphasis is placed on the size of the green open-space, rather than providing any function for the space. There is a distinct lack of anything that would appeal to a family with children, which could, and should, be the beating heart of any community.
Then we have the homes themselves – a combination of five off-the-shelf designs typical to any modern development across the country. A bigger issue with this development is the proposed houses that front Henley Road. The existing houses up to Valley Road have distinct character and contain many differing architectural designs but the proposed houses are once again, bland off-the-shelf designs that could fit any new estate.
The list of groups criticising or objecting to the housing plans are extensive.
IBC’s own Urban Design team raise concerns about the standard types of housing & its repetitive design. The Ipswich Conservation & Design Panel were particularly scathing in their comments, which included; Design quality & failure to set high enough standard, lack of strong & distinctive architectural character, no sense of place, materials appear to be of the cheapest quality, landscaping not powerful enough for a garden suburb, no equipped play area. The Ipswich Society expressed disappointment stating inadequate quality with a similar mundane design.
New developments will usually divide opinion, but you will be hard-pressed to find many favourable comments which is a major disappointment for our town and not good enough. A council needs to develop good working relationships with developers, both large & small and this is an area where the current Labour administration have failed miserably.
It is the councils’ job to work with these businesses to ensure the best results for Ipswich but too often this is not happening in the effective way it should. Several Labour Councillors on the Planning Committee cannot resist the urge to make derogatory towards property developers, accusing them of profiteering among other things. Whether this is their political opinion or not their priority should be to Ipswich and its future prosperity. Cheap political comments may make those Labour Councillors feel good about themselves but damages the future for the people they are supposed to represent.
Like it or not, the best way to ensure Ipswich gets the housing it needs is to work with the developers, not against them, and this is what Conservative councils across the country are doing every day.
It is about time Ipswich reaped the same benefits.
Cllr Ian Fisher
Conservative Group Leader @ IBC