Demolition Day

Noticed on my walk home last night that progress seems to be being made at The Flour Mill in Ipswich. Having been derelict for something like six years (I only moved to Ipswich in 2003) and held by developers since at least April 2003 there have been various articles promising developments in Ipswich’s second-rate press, The Evening Star.

Back in June (council’s decision and the discovery of 15th buildings on site. I received a series of emails from Wharfside Regeneration’s Spencer Style in May (before the section 106 development agreement) in which he made reference to the delays in starting work. He was expecting an 8 week delay in mobilising contractors. Anyway, all that aside the demolition contractors are moving their banners into position and – presumably – beginning the slow and painful process of stripping out the machinery, asbestos and decaying remnants of this crumbling building. As far as I can tell from the images around the web, a lot of the original building is being demolished, including the giant 1950s concrete silos. As much as people might like to see these stay – for reasons of architectural heritage – they would serve no purpose and would instead be vacant monoliths. The proposals, amongst which is the flagship Dance East studios, should do much to enhance this neglected corner of Ipswich

However, there’s still much work to do along the exisiting waterfront. The regeneration that begun at the start of this decade has had some tangible effects. A quick list of developments so far: Cardinal Lofts at the Burtons factory (ongoing), Neptune Marina (completed, Redrow homes), Orwell Quay (Persimmon homes), Neptune Square (Bellway), Stoke Quay (Bellway), and in the 1980s, the Stoke Bridge Maltings. This piecemeal development has left areas apparently unloved and uncared for. Along the road in front of these developments by the quay, the weeds grow up from the council’s neglect. There are precious few bins and no trees. Planting of any kind is scarce and left to individual properties to maintain. Street furniture is damaged and patchwork-repaired.

The ‘vibrant’ waterfront itself is not quite what it seems either. There are two restaurants, another, The Salthouse Brasserie as part of a four-star hotel, a friendly independent cafĂ©, a pub, hairdresser and that’s it. The remaining units are let by various 9-5 businesses (although there is a breadth in these from yacht companies to social care and from picture framing to property development). Major commercial units are vacant in Neptune Marina and the Orwell Quay development has only a faded and seedy pool hall and absolutely nothing else. Whilst commercial units are promised in the remaining developments, it’s a wonder why no-one significant has wanted to catch the worm by booking an early spot on the waterfront. The council is quick to sing this area’s praises but it just isn’t the vibrant commercial and residential melting pot they think it is.

Maybe the proposals for Mint Quarter and St. Peter’s Port can add fuel to a barely smouldering fire of regeneration but unless the council get stuck in and attempt to beautify the area, thinking about environment, heritage, arts and social dynamics then all that will be left at the end of 2010 will be empty steel and glass structures and a whole lot of vacant residential lets. The demolition flags signal some progress, I’ll await the true transformation with more than a degree of scepticism.

Finally, I’ve noticed that Mortimers, a previously independent and rather successful seafood restaurant in a former electricity building on Duke Street, has been bought and redeveloped as part of the Loch Fyne chain. I never got the chance to eat there before it was bought-up, I only hope that this doesn’t mean I’ve missed the boat wth regards to quality seafood and a restaurant with real character…

Technorati Tag :

No comments: