Back in 1982 Ipswich Port Authority had a problem - what to do with the town's historic Wet Dock that had been created by the Victorians but was now too small for most of the commercial shipping that used the docks?

As luck would have it that year the government decided to have a National Maritime Festival as a way of boosting job creation as unemployment continued to rise - and ports across the country were invited to take part.

So Maritime Ipswich was born with the idea of showing off what existed around the town's port - and also provide a catalyst for its regeneration.

To most who lived and worked in the town the docks was an area to be avoided - there was little to attract visitors there, the roads had tramways built into them and it was a pretty forbidding industrial hub.

But much of the town's shipping had moved to the Cliff Quay and West Bank terminals where larger ships could be serviced - and there was no need to pass through the narrow lock gates which could only open at certain times of the tide.

The Maritime Ipswich committee was headed by local businessman Alan Swann who was one of the first to see the potential of the Wet Dock -- or as it later became known the Waterfront.

One of the first things he did was to get a year's lease on the old Home Warehouse next to the port authority's offices at the Old Custom House.

This became the fulcrum of the Maritime Ipswich effort with temporary exhibition space and a second floor restaurant called the Poop Deck.

At the end of the festival its potential had been shown and it was converted into prestigious offices first for transport company Contship and now leading solicitors Ashtons Legal.

A blueprint was published showing how the Waterfront could develop in future years which showed no lack of ambition - but bears little relationship to what actually happened.

In that document there are proposals for a cable car from the West Bank to a new tower block roughly where the Wine Rack has been built, a radio mast including aerial restaurant that looks rather like the Spinnaker at Portsmouth, and a big aquarium on the Island Site.

While they never happened Mr Swann saw the potential to launch Neptune Marina as a home for boats of all sizes - from large cruisers to standard yachts enjoyed by hobby sailors.

The success of the first office building proved a catalyst for other developers to look at the area. Bellway built new flats and Mr Swann invested further in the area.

Now Neptune is not just a 150-berth marina it is also a block of 113 flats overlooking a thriving Waterfront.

Back in 1982 commercial shipping serving Cranfields Mill and Pauls Maltings was very important to the area - as was the wood yard on the Island site and Eastern Counties Farmers site near Fore Street.

Now Cranfields and Pauls have been replaced by residential and leisure developments - although both suffered great financial troubles during the 2008-10 credit crunch.

The last part Pauls has recently been completed as The Wine Rack and much of The Mill development on Cranfields site remains incomplete nearly 15 years after work started.

But elsewhere on the Waterfront progress has been spectacular.

The University of Suffolk's arrival in the early years of the century helped to transform the Holywells end of the Waterfront and has also helped to establish the Duke Street area as an attractive place to live.

There is still space for more development here, but attractive open spaces are also part of the features of the area.

Talk to anyone about the development of The Waterfront 40 years on from 1982 and one name comes up time and again.

James Hehir was chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council from 1989 until he died suddenly in 2009. He was the driving force behind many of the developments in the area - especially the establishment of the the university which is one of its main buildings carries his name.

Today Mr Swann is still chairman of Neptune Marina, although the day-to-day running of the business is in others' hands.

He is still involved with the Ipswich Maritime Trust which is putting on a display about 1982 in its cabinet on The Mill building near Dance East from September 26.

Stuart Grimwade from the Trust said: "It is certainly a good time to look back at how far we have come in the last 40 years. The area has changed significantly - but there is still more to be done."

Over the next 40 years there needs to be major improvements at the Stoke Bridge end of the Waterfront - the council-owned buildings including the last remaining silo need to be restored.

And The Mill on the site of the former Cranfields site needs to be completed - the tall tower block has never been finished internally and cladding that blew off in the St Jude's Storm nine years ago has never been replaced.