Our town centre – a mixed picture

Why does the appearance of parts of Ipswich town centre vary from a little bit run-down  to smart and tidy?

You can take a look at the former Queen’s Head public house building at the top of Civic Drive.

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The former Queen’s Head building

It’s a right dilapidated mess with peeling paint and dirty windows. Ipswich Borough Council is the ultimate landlord but does not seem to care about its deteriorated condition. There is a lovely new restaurant next door in the former Iceland store. But the former pub is a prime spot at the entry to the town centre, and lets the town down. The Conservative group at the Borough Council have repeatedly pressed the Labour council gives it a tidy up, but Labour have refused to take any responsibility. Conservative Councillors even offered to paint the exterior themselves but the Labour councillor responsible made an excuse and rejected this generous offer !  It seems the Labour councillors want this area to look scruffy.

There have been a number of homeless people living in tents in the Elm Street and Civic Drive area. On the grass area in Civic Drive, the tents remaining were abandoned and mysteriously caught fire 2 days later and the fire brigade had to extinguish the potentially damaging blaze. Yet the Borough Council took over 2 weeks to tidy up the charred remains and other dumped camping materials. Why didn’t they clear the mess up immediately?

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Before the fire
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Abandoned and burnt out

You can then look at the smartened up Princes Street area from the railway station up to the Civic Drive area. Why is this area so much more attractive now? It is partly because the previous Conservative MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, worked with the government and councils to allocate this an Enterprise Zone. This means businesses pay reduced or nil business rates for up to 5 years and the Conservative government reimburses the local authority for their reduced rates. The Borough Council has taken advantage of this, through their arms length company, Ipswich Borough Assets, helping to develop the Birketts building.

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Princes St

So my conclusion is where the Labour Borough Council wants parts of the town to look run-down and scruffy, they do absolutely nothing. But where private sector developers, possibly working in conjunction with a Conservative government initiative, the incentive is there for everyone to work together to improve the visual appearance. The refurbished Buttermarket shopping centre is another great example of private sector money investing in improving Ipswich.

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Buttermarket Shopping Centre
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Empty for Christmas!

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It’s 18 months since the lights were turned off in one of the most prominent buildings in our Town Centre. Since then £3.6 million has been spent on improving the Cornhill to try and create and  modern, vibrant focal point.

Part of the ‘Masterplan’ for the Cornhill was to have a prominent tenant at the Old Lloyds Bank (or Post Office if you are as old as me!).

It was the dream scenario promised to us by David Ellesmere, the Labour leader of IBC at an Executive meeting in March of this year. A brasserie style chain restaurant opening just as the work on the Cornhill was being completed. Al-fresco dining creating a buzz in the area and then the anticipated Pret a Manger completing the regeneration project.

What went wrong?

Why can’t IBC manage to find a tenant despite spending huge sums in the surrounding area?

Why can’t IBC find a tenant despite the building being in the most prime location in the Town Centre?

What does this say about our ability to negotiate deals?

The message this gives out to other retailers and businesses is that Ipswich is a failing Town and this is something we should not put up with.

The Labour Council has run out of ideas and cannot be trusted to turn the fortunes of our Town around. We now own £64 million worth of out of town retail parks, if we can’t successfully rent out this beautiful building in a perfect location what hope have got if we lose tenants elsewhere?

If you want to see a change of fortunes for Ipswich then put your trust in local Conservative Councillors. We can make Ipswich a place we can all be proud of.

Bulb Planting at Queensway Park

Bulb planting at Queensway Park

On Friday 26th October and Saturday 3rd November, Nacton make a change and the Nacton Community Garden arranged the big bulb plant on Queensway Park to turn the park into a spring delight of colour. I attended both days with my children and got my hands dirty planting the bulbs with my fellow Priory Heath Residents. Cllr Stephen Ion also joined in on the fun Sunday.

Well done to Ipswich Borough Council for providing the bulbs and to the residents who organised the events, I am a strong believer that an appealing environment has huge benefits on our wellbeing and mental health. Activities such as this are extremely important to bring communities together, and this one in particular will have a long lasting impact on this community.

Cornhill – The Verdict

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We have all eagerly awaited the unveiling of the work to transform the Cornhill, a vital cog in the fortunes of our Town Centre.

Early opinions have been mixed and to add to the debate I think it is wonderful and could be a real boost to the fortunes of our Town. It gives us a focal point to be proud of and it’s modern look should serve us well in the coming years.

Let’s not forget this project was started after the Cornhill was described by Lord (Stuart) Rose (who knows a thing or two about the viability of Town Centres), as ‘depressing’.

As wonderful as it does look Conservative Councillors have the responsibilty of holding the Labour Council to account as we are all aware the project hasn’t been without its problems.

Did it come in on budget?  The answer we got was; No, all costs are not yet in and we are already £50k over budget.

Were the Contractors fined for not completing it on time?   NO, despite us checking before the work started that penalty clauses WOULD be paid if the Contractor was late

How many accidents so far?   We were told of 3, we asked if this was because the Contractor rushed the work to finish on time or was it because we had to cut costs to save money?

Why weren’t the plinths finished (the concrete is yet to be ‘polished’) after they were installed?    Because they were late being delivered on site – again, NO penalties were paid.

This is our job, to ensure residents get the answers they deserve after so much of your money was spent on the project.

We must remain a strong opposition and hold the Council to account, if you want questions asked on your behalf get in contact and we will find the answers for you.

 

 

Rat activity in our Town Centre & No activity by the Labour Council!

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Businesses & residents of our Town Centre have been contacting us and reporting the increasing sightings of rats.

Town Centres are a breeding ground for rats with food readily available and if not tackled swiftly this problem can, and will, turn into an infestation.

Over the past few years your Labour Council has given Planning permission to, and licensed, a huge number of Restaurants, Take-aways & late-night convenience stores, all of which produce waste on a daily basis, and wait for the Council to clear this waste.

Labour boast of the increase in our night-time economy but absolutely no changes have been made to their waste collection & street cleansing routines.

At the Council meeting Wednesday we put forward several suggestions to combat this but all were ignored.

All cleaning & collection finishes at 7pm, some areas in the Town Centre get no service after 5pm. Rubbish overflows in bins (see pic) and some smaller establishments have to use thin, green bin bags out overnight waiting for the morning collection.

Conservative Councillors suggested a change of times for the collection – Labour ignored us.

Conservative Councillors suggested using Sea-gull proof bin bags (used by other Councils) to stop the food waste being made available to the rats – Labour Councillors laughed, and did nothing.

The Labour spokesman for the Environment Cllr Smart suggested it was down to the Businesses to tackle the problem and offered NO hope of action to our hard-pressed business owners – despite them paying huge amounts in business rates.

Rats are a health hazard and a terrible advert for our Town. Conservative Councillors will keep pushing the Labour Council to take the action they should have done when this problem started.

Recycling Centre

Ipswich could soon have a new Recycling Centre. The County Council recently set aside £1m to fund the purchase of a replacement site for the one in Portmans Walk. The current site is very busy, has no room to expand and has to close for up to one fifth of its opening time whilst containers are removed and compacted. A new site has not yet been identified but the council is looking on the west side of Ipswich for any opportunities.