Proposed changes brought Bill to the town

FORMER Co-op boss and current borough councillor Bill Knowles remembers the new town proposals well – they were what brought him to Ipswich as a young man in the mid 1960s.

He arrived in November 1966 as a 22-year-old, just a few weeks after the proposals were published.

“I had the choice of joining the Ipswich Co-op or the Sheffield Co-op. I came here expecting to hang around about three years and I’m still here!” he said.

The proposals were approved by the government and the subject of public inquiries before the Ipswich New Town orders were made in 1968.

However the next year they were abandoned.

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Mr Knowles remembers: “The government had decided that rather than creating any more new towns, they would expand existing towns and create Milton Keynes.

“The towns they chose were Ipswich, Peterborough, Northampton and I think there were one or two others.

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“Peterborough and Northampton went ahead – but Ipswich got a bit bogged down because while the borough was keen, the old East Suffolk County Council whose land would be needed was not as happy.

“The government had financial worries, and I think they just decided it wasn’t worth pushing on with,” Mr Knowles said.

“I had a cousin who went to Milton Keynes in the early days to set up the church there – when I visited him there after ten years I felt I would rather be in Ipswich.

“I’m not sure how the town would have coped with such an expansion.”

FORMER Suffolk County Council chief executive Clifford Smith arrived in this part of the country in the early 1960s as a senior planning officer at the former East Suffolk County Council.

He was responsible for looking at the future expansion of East Suffolk – although at the time Ipswich was an independent county borough in charge of its own development.

He said: “At the time Ipswich did not have a strategic planning chief but once this was published they appointed Geoffrey Ramsdale.

“I worked closely with him to develop a response – we made it clear that any major expansion of Ipswich would require a new by-pass.”

The government told them that a new by-pass for the town would be so expensive it would eat up most of the budget for a new town.

The concerns remained, and by 1969 the development of Peterborough and Northampton was underway along with the start of work on Milton Keynes.

Government proposals to expand Ipswich and other towns including Ashford in Kent were gently shelved – and Mr Smith and Mr Ramsdale started looking at alternative proposals for the expansion of Ipswich.

These were the proposals that eventually happened – with major development at Martlesham Heath sparked by the construction of the GPO (later BT) research centre which became Adastral Park followed by the expansion of Kesgrave, Rushmere and other communities to the east of the town.

Mr Smith felt the expansion of Ipswich had been more sustainable, and therefore stronger, than if the government had imposed a major change to the area.

He said: “In the years that followed we saw some major companies coming to the Ipswich area – Guardian Royal Exchange, Willis, BT, and others which brought a large number of jobs to the area which compensated for the decline in some of the traditional industries in the area.

“The by-pass took a long time and was a hard fight, but the way the town developed is, I think, better than some of the proposals that came from the government.”

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