Have faith in your Suffolk towns - if you don’t like them who else will?

Work on Ipswich Cornhill is nearing completion - but will visitors like the new area? Picture: PAUL

Work on Ipswich Cornhill is nearing completion - but will visitors like the new area? Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

One of the attractive characteristics of many people in Suffolk is the way they see the county in a slightly understated way – they may know it’s a special place but they’re not sure they should shout about it.

Woodbridge has a superb town centre - but needs to show more self-confidence. Picture: SARAH LUCY B

Woodbridge has a superb town centre - but needs to show more self-confidence. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

As I say that is quite an attractive quality in many ways – but the danger is that it can slip over into a lack of self-confidence and that is something I’ve been noticing increasingly over the last two or three years (but it’s been under the surface for longer than that).

Ipswich is a town where far too many people seem to fail to recognise just what a good position it is in – and for whom the immediate response when any improvement is planned is to knock it back or look for the negatives.

And that lack of self confidence seems to have infected other parts of the county – the other day we had businesses and civic leaders from Woodbridge appearing to audition for the role of Pte Fraser in Dad’s Army by running around crying “We’re doomed.”

In Ipswich we’ve suffered the major blow of seeing the Upper Orwell Crossings project all but cancelled because the county council didn’t put in a high-enough contingency when working out the cost – but also because too many people in the town were totally unenthusiastic about the scheme.

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I have seen Conservative politicians trying to blame the opposition for this. It’s true Labour wasn’t keen on the scheme – but the most vocal opposition came from the Tories in Holywells Ward.

I suspect had it not been for them the Tories at the county council wouldn’t have listened so attentively to the opposition to the crossings.

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In Ipswich we also had complaints about the work to the Cornhill to improve the town centre. “Waste of money,” “Ipswich is a dump, why spend that much on somewhere no one likes?” “Should have spent the money on the homeless,” are all comments I’ve heard.

We won’t have to wait long now to see if all the work has been worth it – but I really don’t know of any other large town or city where there has been so much wingeing about a major civic improvement.

And then last week we had complaints from Woodbridge about how new developments in Martlesham were threatening to kill the town centre.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see Woodbridge town centre as dying. It’s brilliant. And it’s justifiably going for the accolade of best town centre in the country.

It has a fantastic blend of independent stores, some of the best charity shops you’ll find anywhere, and probably the best Co-op in the world!

The way people shop may have changed – but, speaking as an Ipswich resident whose visits to Woodbridge have become increasingly frequent over recent years, the heart of the town has adapted brilliantly.

And the fact is that as a visitor to Woodbridge, the growth of Martlesham shopping has been a bonus over recent years.

If we can’t find something we want in Woodbridge (which is rare) we can call into Marks and Spencer on our way home.

I know the boss of Barretts was concerned about new furniture shops opening – but the fact is that in the days of the internet and large furniture shops all over the place, people are going to look around before they buy a three-piece suite or a new bed.

They don’t just go to the nearest store and hand over hundreds if not thousands of pounds without comparing what is on offer elsewhere first.

Earlier this year I was critical of Woodbridge Town Council’s decision to object to Aldi’s application for a new store at Martlesham – an application backed by 886 representations of support.

I still feel that was a crazy objection and again showed a lack of confidence in the town which is totally unjustified.

Suffolk’s towns, large and small, have a great deal going for them – but if their residents and their civic leaders don’t have confidence in them, is it any wonder that those from outside can often just see an air of negativity surrounding them.

I don’t see that elsewhere. I’m not aware of the people of Norwich complaining about the construction of their new Forum library or the people of Chelmsford moaning about the rebuilding of the city’s shopping centre over recent years.

So come on Suffolk, show some confidence in your towns both large and small – if you don’t think they’re worth loving how can you expect anyone else to be enthusiastic about them?

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