Commitment to high quality design
Procuring consultants for a well-defined masterplanning exercise combined with the experience and input of Ipswich Borough Council and its partners, proved to be a successful way to develop a spatial plan and design guidance. This has brought about a considerable improvement in the design of individual sites. Ipswich Borough Council felt that the CABE enabler brought valuable expertise to the project and helped them to secure funding.
Ipswich Borough Council demonstrated a commitment to high quality architecture and public realm design. The conservation and development control officers were especially committed to improving the quality of development at the waterfront.
A flexible approach
The design process developed as the project progressed. Urban Initiatives responded to the clear statement of intent outlined in the brief, but at key points in the process they challenged and reconsidered the original brief. Taking a questioning approach helped to maximise the opportunities created through the project.
Conveying complex issues
Communicating the plan to a wide range of audiences presented a number of challenges. Complex issues were simplified so they could be clearly understood. In some cases strategic diagrams were misinterpreted. Carrying out detailed design workshops with the public could have added value to the consultation process and helped to clear up any confusion.
The long-term and strategic nature of the area action plan was a barrier to getting a response from some audiences involved in the consultation. In particular, it was difficult to communicate the long-term importance of establishing better connections within the town in cases where they did not directly affect a site. This presented challenges for the delivery of a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly movement strategy in the town.
Promoting mixed-use development
Ipswich now has a more complete and mixed waterfront, with developments still emerging. The waterfront has become a destination area, with one landmark tower in particular that is clearly visible from a number of points in the town.
When all phases of the Cranfield Mill development are completed, the scheme will incorporate 300 homes, restaurants, shops, offices and a theatre for regional arts agency Dance East. The Cranfield Mill proposals initially met with some local opposition because of the scale of the development and some of these architectural concerns were shared by CABE. Despite this, the content of the proposal was well received and the scheme brings an impressive presence to the waterfront.
The development of a major new university building on the waterfront has further extended the facilities in the area and helped to widen the mix of uses. The development has helped to connect the wet dock and marina with neighbouring areas and facilities and has led to increased activity and footfall in the area. A public plaza outside the main building, owned and managed by the university, provides a space for outdoor events.
A new pedestrian and cycle bridge link from the emerging public sector quarter to new developments in the west of the town centre has opened up a part of the town that had long been disconnected from the centre except by car.
Changing economic conditions meant that a number of waterfront developments have not been commenced or remain incomplete as a consequence of high building costs and difficulties securing commercial funding due to negative cash flow. However, preparing the plan and prioritising the most influential actions needed to bring about change, means that Ipswich is still well placed to deliver its vision for the IP-One area, even if progress on some sites will be much slower than expected. The quality of development that has taken place will help to raise values generally in the area and will make this a good area to invest in once lending conditions and building costs shift over time.
Informing the local agenda
The area action plan opened up opportunities beyond the immediate scope of the study and led to further work on key areas for future development, including the Ipswich Village and Cardinal Park areas. The character of these previously industrial areas - with low quality shed-type buildings, surface parking and various derelict sites – could have seriously limited the positive effect that development in the IP-One area has had on the town as a whole.
The preparation of the area action plan identified a number of issues that remain high on the council’s agenda. These issues include:
- economic development including job creation
- improvements to infrastructure
- providing a better mix and balance of new homes
- improving the quality of life in Ipswich.