Ipswich Borough Council Local Plan Core Strategy and Policies Development Plan Document Review - Final Draft

Ended on the 2 March 2020
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(8) CHAPTER 5: Ipswich - The Place

5.1 Ipswich in context

5.2 Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk and a major centre of population, economic activity and growth in the Eastern Region. It is a key centre in the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership region covering Norfolk and Suffolk. Map 1 below shows Ipswich in context.

5.3 The town performs a regional role in delivering growth and performing as a major employment, shopping and service centre, and a focus for transportation. There is in Ipswich also an ongoing need for regeneration to address pockets of deprivation in some of the disadvantaged and physically more run down areas of the town.

5.4 Deprivation issues are the result of different combinations of factors that may include higher than average proportions of elderly residents, high unemployment; lower-than average skill level; income deprivation or crime. For example unemployment in Ipswich is higher than that for the eastern region as a whole and the national average, while areas with higher than average pensioner households have implications for the future distribution of health and social care.

MAP 1: Ipswich in its sub-regional context

Ipswich in its subregional context A5 map

5.5 Ipswich the town

5.6 As an engine of growth for the East of England, Ipswich has a thriving commercial sector, ICT sector linked to Adastral Park, business and financial services sector and a significant port. It is a centre for education, including the University of Suffolk on the Waterfront, which offers a programme of teaching and research in key sectors. Ipswich also provides a wide range of cultural, sporting and retail provision, which serves the needs of the sub-region. The town has a diverse and multi­cultural population, and is one of the fastest growing urban centres in the UK.

5.7 Ipswich is developing dynamically and prosperously and has strong prospects for growth. Finance, IT and business activities account for one quarter of the workforce, with a similar proportion for distribution, hotels and restaurants, the latter demonstrating the role of Ipswich in sub-regional tourism and the strong night-time economy. This growth is supported at a central, sub-regional and local government level, enabling Ipswich to develop while acknowledging the sense of place established by many historic buildings and areas and its large landscaped parks. Partners have agreed a Greater Ipswich City Deal with the Government with a focus on tackling skills levels and low wages.

5.8 The town is well connected in the transport network. Train services provide access to London in just over an hour and links to Norwich, Cambridge and Peterborough, but the network also serves the East Coast and Felixstowe, all essential routes for containerised freight. Ipswich is also closely connected to the trunk road network with the A12 giving access to London, the M25 and Stansted Airport and the A14 linking the Midlands and the Port of Felixstowe. Nevertheless, there are congestion and capacity issues.

5.9 Table 1 below sets out some of the town's vital statistics:

Table 1 – Ipswich Statistics


117,200 (2001)

133,384 (2011)

136,400 (2014)

137,500 (2018) (Nomis)

Number of Economically Active People

70,900 (79.6%) (April 2016 – March 2017)

71,900 (81.8%) (April 2018 – March 2019) (Nomis)

Number of Employed People

67,600 (75.7%) (April 2016 – March 2017)

69,700 (79.4%) (April 2018 – March 2019) (Nomis)

Employment Sectors (employee jobs) (Nomis 2017)

Mining and Quarrying

0 (0.0%)


2,050 (3.5%)

Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air Conditioning Supply

1, 500 (2.1%)

Water Supply

200 (0.3%)


3,000 (4.2%)

Wholesale and Retail

11,000 (15.5%)

Transportation and Storage

4,500 (6.3%)

Accommodation and Food Service activities

4,000 (5.6%)

Information and Communication

2,000 (2.8%)

Financial and Insurance Activities

5,000 (7.0%)

Real Estate Activities

900 (1.3%)

Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities

3,500 (4.9%)

Administrative and Support Service Activities

7,000 (9.9%)

Public Administration and Defence

5,000 (7%)


5,000 (7.0%)

Human Health and Social Work Activities

12,000 (16.9%)

Arts, Entertainment and Recreation

2,250 (3.2%)

Other Service Activities

1,250 (1.8%)

Number of Self-Employed People

8,400 (9.5%) (East 11.2%) (Great Britain 10.6%) (April 2016 – March 2017)

9,200 (10.5%) (East 11.4%) (Great Britain 10.7%) (April 2018 – March 2019) (Nomis)


3,600 (5%) (East 3.5%) (Great Britain 4.7%) (April 2016 – March 2017)

3,000 (4.1%) (East 3.4%) (Great Britain 4.1%) (April 2018 – March 2019) Nomis

Number of Businesses (enterprises)

3,865 (2016)

4,070 (2018) Nomis

Ethnic group (non-white British)

11% (2011) Census


Over 600 listed buildings, 15 conservation areas, 8 scheduled monuments and 3 registered parks, gardens and cemeteries.

Average Annual House Building (2014 to 2019)

317.2 dwellings per annum (including assisted living units)

Average percentage of housing built on previously development land (2014 to 2019)


5.10 Much of the recent development in the town has been focused around four key central areas: the Waterfront, Portman Quarter, town centre and Education Quarter.

5.11 Ipswich Waterfront in the 19th Century was briefly the largest wet dock in England. Today it is the location for the largest single regeneration project in the East of England and the focus of huge commercial, cultural and institutional investment such as the regional home for Dance East and the University ofSuffolk. New buildings benefit from being immediately south of the town centre and connected to it by attractive historic streets. This investment has assisted in the provision of jobs, new housing and educational opportunities.

5.12 Progressive regeneration is creating space for a vibrant new cultural, residential, business and leisure area, complementing the existing marina facilities. Along the northern and eastern quays in particular former industrial uses and tall storage silos are being replaced with new architecture in a variety of styles and materials. Generally the new buildings reflect a similar scale and do not detract from those parts of the historic core that extend down to the Waterfront. These strikingly scaled new buildings have largely created their own special character.

5.13 The large scale regeneration of Ipswich Waterfront has also encouraged new interest from businesses. On the western bank of the river, Felaw Maltings and the IP-City business centre are both now in demand for their top quality business space, providing facilities for over 800 workers. On the Waterfront itself, one of the town's largest legal practices has chosen to relocate its offices into one of the converted 19th Century industrial buildings adjacent to the historic Old Custom House.

5.14 To the south-west of the central area, Portman Quarter offers a further choice of employment and residential sites. This is already the location of headquarters for Ipswich Borough Council, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils and Suffolk County Council as well as Suffolk Life, Ipswich Crown Courts, Ipswich Town Football Club, Birketts LLP and AXA Insurance among others. This location is well placed for further commercial and institutional uses because of its close proximity to the town centre, the Waterfront and Ipswich railway station.

5.15 In April 2007 a town centre Business Improvement District (BID) was established, called Ipswich Central. The company has been established to manage the town centre in a new way and bring investment into the retail heart of Ipswich to benefit businesses, residents and visitors. Ipswich Central has the twin aims of promoting and managing the town centre. Through the Ipswich Vision partnership project, it aims to work with stakeholders to create a successful county town centre.

5.16 A particularly exciting development for Ipswich was the establishment in September 2007 of a new Education Quarter for the University Campus Suffolk, established on and closely related to the Waterfront. This area is the focus of more than £150m investment which brought a brand new campus to the centre of Ipswich in an innovative partnership between the University of Essex and University of East Anglia. Its landmark building on the Waterfront opened in 2008 followed by Athena Hall, a student accommodation block in 2010 and the James Hehir building in 2011. In August 2016 the University gained independence as the University of Suffolk.

5.17 The development of this new higher education establishment has also enabled the complete rebuilding of Ipswich's further education facility - Suffolk College. A £59m development of the Suffolk New College was completed in 2009. Both these new education facilities are key to improving and increasing the opportunities and choices for Ipswich. It is anticipated that these will spark further commercial, cultural and academic developments.

5.18 The Physical Development of Ipswich

5.19 Ipswich is a large town of great historic and archaeological importance, with origins in the 7th Century. The town centre, by an accident of topography, retains the physical character of a much smaller market town. This is partly because the prevailing scale of the town centre is still predominantly that of its medieval and earlier origins - rarely exceeding four-storeys in height - and partly because the town centre sits in a shallow drainage basin of the River Gipping with well landscaped Victorian developments and large parks which disguise the extent of modern development which extends beyond it, especially to the east.

5.20 Although recent redevelopment of tall, late 19th and 20th Century industrial buildings around the Waterfront has emulated the height of these buildings, this has principally been confined to the area of the northern quays to the south of the historic core of the town centre.

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5.21 Historically, drainage constraints have inhibited development to the north of Ipswich and the character of the surrounding countryside infiltrates into the built-up area where Christchurch Park extends southward to the northern edge of the medieval core of the town. The former tidal basin that became the 19th Century Wet Dock also constrained the development of Ipswich with houses fanning out westward along the Gipping valley and over a largely flat plateau to the east.

5.22 These physical constraints and historical form of Ipswich have significant consequences for modern day traffic movement, particularly the location of Christchurch Park to the north of the medieval core and the Wet Dock and river to the south. All of these features are important to the character of Ipswich and as conservation areas are also major protected heritage assets. They in effect confine traffic to only three 'crossing- points': Colchester Road north of the park; Crown Street north of the core; and Star Lane - College St/Key Street north of the dock. Opportunities to radically change the traffic patterns within Ipswich are therefore significantly restricted by existing development and physical features.

5.23 Beyond the inner Victorian suburbs, Ipswich has developed in the 20th Century through large scale, almost entirely two-storey inter-war and post war suburban development. Whilst there are some notable exceptions, much of it is of indifferent architectural quality and lacks the landscaping and open space that would have helped establish a strong localised sense of place.

5.24 Key challenges for Ipswich over the Plan Period

5.25 Over the plan period to 2036 the issues and challenges mainly stem from how Ipswich can manage and gain best advantage from the significant growth that is taking place:

  • accommodating growth in a way that enhances Ipswich's character and unique sense of place, residents' quality of life and the town's biodiversity;
  • strengthening the role of Ipswich town centre in response to ongoing changes to the way in which it serves Ipswich's residents and visitors;
  • using regeneration opportunities to address deprivation, make places safer and create opportunities for all;
  • managing the additional travel demands that growth will generate and guiding as many trips as possible to sustainable modes for the good of the environment, economy and health;
  • maintaining accessibility to goods and services in Ipswich including to those living outside its boundary;
  • retaining skilled workers and improving skills levels amongst the workforce;
  • protecting and supporting appropriately located industrial and business activity;
  • managing flood risk, increasing resilience and adapting to a changing climate;
  • ensuring that infrastructure provision keeps pace with growth and addressing gaps in access to fast broadband; and
  • supporting the completion of key regeneration priorities at the Waterfront.

5.26 Table 2 below identifies a series of key issues which the Ipswich final draft Local Plan will seek to address where practicable as identified through the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report.

Table 2 – Key Issues raised in the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report

Key SA issue across Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal

Ipswich Borough Specific Issues


The need to reduce inequality and social exclusion

  • Ipswich scores worse than the Suffolk average against every indicator the 'Index of Multiple Deprivation Score' except, barriers to housing and services.
  • One in five children in Ipswich lives in poverty.
  • High comparative level of teenage pregnancy

Impact of changing demographics and migration trends

  • The Borough, compared to the rest of the county has a higher number of children, a higher population of working age because of the availability of job opportunities.
  • Although there is an aging population, there is a trend to retire out to rural areas.
  • Ipswich expects to see more births than deaths across the decade, 2014-2024


The need to ensure the delivery of a sustainable supply of housing

  • Limited land availability and large areas of protected land.
  • Over the last two years house sales have fallen by 50% in Ipswich.

Ensuring the delivery of mix of housing types and tenures (including affordable housing)

  • Low comparative level of owner occupiers with no mortgage, higher socially rented stock and higher private rental sector.
  • Ipswich has the lowest house price to income ratio in the IHMA. Homes cost on average 6.44 times average income. However prices have risen significantly in the last few years and Ipswich has the highest affordable housing need.
  • Need to deliver a more diverse range of housing types.
  • The impact of a changing population on housing supply. Increased demand for specialist housing including student accommodation.

Health and Wellbeing

The need to ensure the delivery of health and social care provision in line with growth

  • Population is younger than the county, regional and national averages.
  • Requirement to retain and improve existing community health facilities and services and ensure the timely delivery of new facilities to meet needs arising from new development

The need to address health inequalities and public health

  • Gypsies and Travellers experience some of the worst health in all BME groups.
  • Ipswich has proportionally more 0-5 year olds than other districts

Promoting healthy lifestyles

  • Ipswich has the lowest levels of physical activity in the region

Crime rates and anti-social behaviour

  • Ipswich had the highest number of criminal offences committed in the IHMA.
  • Addressing fear of crime.


The need to ensure the delivery of education provision in line with growth

  • Insufficient primary and secondary capacity in some areas of the Borough

The need to ensure appropriate skills to match future employment needs

  • Overall in comparison with the rest of the region and Britain, Ipswich had lower levels of qualified people at all levels in 2015


Managing water resources and water quality

  • There are a number of Groundwater Source Protection Zones in Ipswich.
  • High number of existing groundwater and surface water Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.

The timely provision of new water services infrastructure in line with growth

  • The timely provision of new water services infrastructure in line with growth


Improving air quality

  • Congestion at various locations in the town centre and associated air quality issues
  • There are currently four Air Quality Management Areas in Ipswich

The requirement for clean vehicle infrastructure to encourage uptake of technologies

  • The requirement for clean vehicle infrastructure to encourage uptake of technologies

Material Assets (including soil and waste)

The need to maintain and/or enhance soil quality

  • The need to remediate contaminated sites and avoid contamination.
  • Very little high quality agricultural land remaining.

The need to manage waste arisings in accordance with the waste hierarchy

  • The need to manage waste arisings in accordance with the waste hierarchy

The need to encourage development on previously developed land and/or make use of existing buildings and infrastructure

  • The average percentage of housing built on previously developed land in Ipswich from 2001/02 to 2013/14 was 92.9%. In 2017/18, this had increased to 96.5%.

The need to protect and enhance sites designated for their geological interest

  • The need to protect and enhance sites designated for their geological interest

Climatic Change, Flooding and the Coast and Estuaries

The need to ensure that the built environment adapts to the impact of climate change and extreme weather events

  • The need to increase renewable energy provision and deliver carbon neutral development.
  • The need to ensure sustainable construction techniques and green infrastructure are employed to mitigate climate change and address fuel poverty.

The need to address pluvial, fluvial and coastal flood risk

  • Ipswich has a Flood Defence Management Strategy including a tidal surge barrier which has been built
  • In addition, as part of the final draft Local Plan, a refresh is being prepared of the Ipswich Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA)

The need to manage pressure on protected sites

  • Large areas protected for species and habitat value which come under pressure from increased recreational and tourist activity


The need to conserve and enhance biodiversity (including sites designated for their nature conservation value)

  • Numerous protected species, habitats and sites across the borough and pressures on climate biodiversity arising from climate change and urban development.
  • Need to extend and enhance the green infrastructure network across the whole IHMA.

The need to halt biodiversity net loss

  • High biodiversity value.

Cultural Heritage

Maintaining and enhancing designated and non-designated heritage and cultural assets

  • High number of heritage assets


The need to ensure the protection and enhancement of local distinctiveness and character

  • Managing development while protecting significant areas of environmental protection.
  • Delivering high quality design that respects local character.

The need to manage pressure from new development on the AONB

  • Some AONB areas in Ipswich


The need to support and maintain a sustainable local economy

  • Competition for land from housing.
  • Full-time female workers earn a third less than full-time male workers in Ipswich.
  • Promoting growth in key employment sectors.

Enhancing town and service centres and their role

  • Changing nature of the high street, local and district centres and changing shopping habits.

Transport and connectivity

Reducing the need to travel

  • Co-location of services

Encouraging the use of sustainable transport modes

  • Improving the walking and cycling environment, lack of integrated public transport and relatively cheap car parking.
  • Provision of adequate public transport infrastructure

Digital Infrastructure

The need to realise opportunities for social inclusion through the provision of improved online services

  • Access to fast broadband and wifi across the town.
  • Unreliable mobile phone coverage in some areas

The need to support the growth of the digital economy

  • Access to fast broadband and wifi across the town.
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