Minister hails regeneration boost

THE £800million-plus regeneration the Ipswich waterfront was hailed as “a massive boost to the region's economy” by a Government Minister as she visited the site.

THE £800million-plus regeneration the Ipswich waterfront was hailed as “a massive boost to the region's economy” by a Government Minister as she visited the site.

Industry and Regions Minister Margaret Hodge was in the town to see the transformation of its once run-down docklands area yesterday as part of a tour of the area which also took her to another regeneration site, at Eastport in Great Yarmouth, and BT's Adastral Park at Martlesham.

She met privately with key regional representatives at a working lunch held at IP-City Centre, Ipswich waterfront's new £7.7million office facilities aimed at helping innovative new businesses to grow.

“The Ipswich Waterfront regeneration is a massive boost to the region's economy and is a great example of East of England Development Agency working with the key players in the City to set big goals and achieve them,” she said.

Among those at the meeting were Richard Ellis, chairman of the East of England Development Agency, James Hehir, chief executive at Ipswich Borough Council, Ipswich MP Chris Mole and Richard Atkins, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for planning and economic development and chairman of Regional Cities East.

Mr Atkins said he hoped to keep the Government aware of the different growth initiatives going on, and to highlight the infrastructure problems.

Most Read

“This region has had less in infrastructure spending that any other region over the last 50 years, consistently so,” he said.

He pointed out that Ipswich would have at least 15,400 new homes by 2021 and was hoping to create 20,000 new jobs over that period.

Among the issues he was hoping to discuss was more funding for Ipswich regeneration projects, including around £700,000 to £800,000 for a regeneration of St Laurence's Church, which it is hoped will be transformed into a mixed community centre, and £1.5million to move power cabling from below a car park off Princes Street to allow the area to be regenerated.

He said they were now hoping their applications for funding for the two schemes through the area's new Growth Point Status would be successful.

“The eastern region is the fastest-growing region in the country and Ipswich happens to be the fastest-growing town in the region,” he said. “The East of England is somewhat unique in that there is no particular city that dominates.”

Richard Ellis also voiced concern over infrastructure issues.

“To be honest, the most important thing is the minister understands what's different about the East of England,” he said.

Although it was one of the fastest-growing places in the country, there were “significant difficulties” in terms of infrastructure which needed to be overcome, he said.

He pressed the point to the Minister that the East of England Development Agency had “the smallest budget of any regional development agency”.

Mrs Hodge said: “I have come down here really to look at how regeneration can reinvigorate an area.”

She commented on how the Felaw Maltings complex had attracted a cluster of other developments which were beneficial to the town, and was struck by the IT successes at Martlesham.

“I didn't realise that this area was so strong in information technology and all the associated spin-off companies,” she said.

She welcomed news that planning permission had been agreed for the new further education college site just north of the Waterfront.

“Putting education and training at the heart of regeneration is vital to ensuring success in the increasingly competitive global environment in which we live. This is a great step forward in an exciting project. It is another example of successful partnership working and is why Ipswich is one of the fastest-growing centres in the UK,” she said.