Poll: Council accused of lack of vision – opposition claim
Labour councillors running the borough council have failed to develop a vision to take the town forward into the 21st century.
That is the claim from opposition planning spokeswoman Judy Terry as the debate over the future of the town centre and Waterfront moves up a gear.
Mrs Terry said councillors who should be coming up with a way for the town to develop knew nothing about running a business – or of the needs of the business community.
She said: “There is a lack of vision, a lack of impetus for the development of the town. We need some imagination to be coming out of the borough – and we’re just not getting that.”
Mrs Terry felt the council’s planning officials were not at fault – their numbers had been cut back to such an extent that they did not have a chance to look at the strategic issues.
However senior councillors should have worked much harder to find staff who could look at developing the town.
“There is a great deal that needs to be done. The council has to take a leading role in identifying and promoting schemes.
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“I always say there should be three projects on the go at any one time – that gives you the opportunity to concentrate on them and ensure they get completed.
“If there are too many prospective developments, nothing will ever get done!”
She felt that finding a use for the Grafton Way site that had been due to be a Tesco supermarket remained a priority, as is developing The Link site in Lower Brook Street.
There should be encouragement for other landowners to demolish derelict buildings and leave spaces open for public access until it was possible to develop them.
“Look at the old Burton’s site on the Waterfront. The borough should look at moving in, either negotiating with owners or getting compulsory purchase and demolishing those redundant buildings and having some open space there – which could be used by Dance East on occasions.”
Mrs Terry’s criticisms have come from a political opponent of the current administration at the borough, but some businesses in Ipswich have expressed similar concern about a lack of vision for the town.
The need for a clear strategy for the town centre was an issue raised in our survey of town centre companies earlier this month.
Ellesmere defends borough
Borough leader and prospective Labour MP for Ipswich David Ellesmere defended the administration against Mrs Terry’s criticisms.
He said the nation’s economic problems had had a major impact in Ipswich, particularly around the Waterfront.
But some of the most serious problems were caused by decisions made by the former Conservative/LibDem administration.
Mr Ellesmere said: “The recession has had a major impact on the town, particularly stopping work at the Waterfront – but now Savills have started selling again and things are looking up there.
“What happens to the Wine Rack remains a major issue. I still think it is likely to have to come down – and I would like to see an open space created there.”
He said the previous administration’s decision to allow the development of a huge Tesco superstore in Grafton Way had blighted other potential development sites in the town centre.
“I’m not going to take lessons from Councillor Terry on bringing forward developments in the town when it was the decision of her administration which led to many other potential developments being put on hold!”
The borough had commissioned property specialist DTZ to write a report on the future of the town’s economy – and that is currently under preparation.
And Mr Ellesmere insisted that the borough was taking strong lead in trying to improve the town centre.
He said: “We are playing an active role in the redevelopment of the Cornhill and we are working to try to make the town centre more attractive.”
But there was a limit to what the borough could do – and while the idea of leaving land empty might seem attractive, it was not an option for most owners.
“It might seem attractive to leave land vacant and turf it over – but that is the one thing that is not going to make its owners any money at all. That really is not an option,” he added.