From Mark Ling
1. Suffolk is the 12th largest county in England, the largest English county without a city and the only county in the top 20 without a city.
2. There is no precedent that a city must have a cathedral; Bath, Cambridge, Hull, Lancaster, Newport, Nottingham, Plymouth, Salford, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton don’t have cathedrals.
3. Ipswich had a sufferagan Bishop as far back as 1534, a full 380 years before the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich was created or before Bury’s St James Church became a cathedral (1914).
4. Ipswich has a charter granted by King John – issued 15 years before the Magna Carta – which guaranteed the town a right to govern itself. Ipswich governed itself for 774 years before its identity and autonomy was stolen by the Local Government Act 1972 (implemented 1974). Now we rely on the enlightened permission of Suffolk County Council cabinet members from as far as Bury St Edmunds, Mildenhall, Aldeburgh, Threadling (no? we neither), Nayland or Halesworth to tell us 250,000 people in and around Ipswich how we should run our area.
5. Ipswich is one of the country’s largest and fastest growing economies with £4.5bn GVA per annum.
6. Ipswich is very similar in population size to Norwich and Cambridge. Our urban centre has a higher population than Norwich. Our greater urban area and Travel to Work area is also similar.
7. You can pretty much fit Suffolk’s biggest towns inside of Ipswich’s urban population (Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Felixstowe and Newmarket).
8. Suffolk’s 9th biggest town is Kesgrave which is a very nice Ipswich housing estate controlled by Suffolk Coastal District Council. SCDC are planning to make Martlesham “Suffolk’s 12th largest town”, yet another very nice Ipswich housing estate controlled by Suffolk Coastal District Council.
9. SCDC plan to dump 51% of their new houses in the Ipswich area, and Babergh a large number too (total around 8000 new houses). All are dependent upon Ipswich, yet the centre they rely upon has been neglected, and it has been stripped of a joined up voice, focus or ambition.
10. Ipswich Borough also plans 4000 extra houses within the ancient borough boundaries. Clearly we need joined up thinking, we need a single focus and direction. Ipswich as a centre needs a very clear identity and sense of place within all this growth.
11. We love Bury St Edmunds… who doesn’t? It has a strong identity and position as an historic town. It doesn’t need any more accolades or ego. City status won’t improve Bury St Edmunds in the slightest. It will, however, give Ipswich a much needed boost.
12. There is no precedent that says our beloved Ipswich Town FC must change its name to Ipswich City FC. However, Ipswich as a place becoming a city may attract more ambitious owners, managers and players. Many players are too young to have heard of our illustrious history and have never heard of Ipswich as a place. Perhaps playing for a city just 70 miles from the capital will prove a more attractive sell.
13. Many Ipswich Town FC fans say “what is the point of being promoted to the Premier League, we’d only come straight back down”. It is exactly this apathy and loser mentality that not only resonates round our club but also the entire town. Ipswich needs higher ambition, we need people who are hungry for the “premier league”, not only in football terms but for Ipswich as a place too.
14. If we want to attract top retail to Ipswich we need for it to be “on the map”. All cities are on the radar for the major retail outlets. Ipswich is 42nd biggest urban area and 35th biggest retail centre. Bury St Edmunds has a beautiful retail centre, yet despite its woes Ipswich is still three times bigger. In fact of all the major urban areas only Manchester, Leeds, Norwich (which is successful because it is so isolated up there) really buck the trend. Ipswich punches at our own weight and in spite of plenty of competing retail centres within one hour. If we had critical mass and were a city we may register with the bigger retailers and attract more interest.
15. Ipswich has a charter from Henry VIII in 1518 which gives Ipswich complete control over the River Orwell and its shores. Without a strong Ipswich there would be no Port of Felixstowe.
16. Ipswich was not only a County-Borough but also County Town of East Suffolk, actively involved and the major stakeholder. We had 22 major engineering, port and manufacturing giants. Without a strong Ipswich there would be no BT Adastral Park, no Port of Felixstowe, no Sizewell, no Orwell Bridge or southern bypass. All Suffolk’s major economic development has come when Ipswich has been in a position of strength.
17. Ipswich area has a GVA of around £8bn pa. Norwich area (including Aviva/Norwich Union and Norwich Research Park) is £6.5bn. Ipswich IS at the heart of the greatest economic zone in Norfolk and Suffolk. Ipswich should not be a poor relation in Suffolk. A strong and confident Ipswich could do even better for Suffolk.
18. Ipswich should not be in the shadows of Norwich and Cambridge. We are an equal. We are Suffolk’s regional centre. A strong Ipswich means a stronger Suffolk. We cannot hope to win government investment, third party investment, lottery funding, LEP focus and funding for highways and economic development unless we are equipped with the same tools and status.
19. For too long Ipswich has brought out the worst behaviour in Suffolk people. Suffolk people wrongly look down on the town. Ipswich people kick the town before others do.
20. It is time to re-evaluate Ipswich as a place; to celebrate what is great about Ipswich, to be more positive and ambitious for it. City status won’t solve all our problems or challenges. However, it will give the town a fresh start, a new sense of place, identity and value once again, in Ipswich, in Suffolk, and beyond.