I don’t really feel the year began until Monday of this week, so I shall take this opportunity to have a look at what lies ahead in 2017 and what I would like to see achieved in the town.
On that I am already a hostage to fortune. For much of last year I have written here and said elsewhere that people would begin to feel the change in our town in 2016 but that in 2017 that understanding would finally become widespread. Why? Well, because some of the schemes we fought for and won a few years ago are now coming to fruition, whilst some of the larger projects that have been secured will begin in earnest – and will be obvious to see to people in the town and, indeed, for many in the rest of the county.
The general smartening up of the approach to the town centre from the train station continues apace. The station refurbishment itself is now complete and whilst not perfect, it is a great deal more comfortable and less ragged than it was a year ago. The forecourt, which will be finished in a matter of weeks, is a massive improvement. By the time summer comes round visitors will emerge onto a smart new pedestrian area, with generous spaces rather than the cramped and tired layout with which they had to contend before. I know we have to sort some issues out for the taxi drivers but in all, this will present the town far better than the former arrangements, which were a nasty 80s throwback.
Walk up Princes Street and you will, in a few months, pass the spanking new Birketts building on the new snooker hall site, whilst closer into town Queen Street will soon be done, completing an improvement scheme that should have been done years ago but is well worth the investment made. The new shops that have arrived in 2016 will be added to in 2017 and as a result, the town centre will continue to improve into the place that we all want it to be.
Head further south for a drink by the Waterfront and you will soon see barges drawing up to start the ground investigations for the Upper Orwell Crossings. This will show people that we are in earnest. And – well – I don’t want to jinx it, so let’s just say I hope that some buildings nearby that have been left unfinished for a decade now are finally completed.
Around the town we will see more schools receiving a Good grade from Ofsted and – I hope – we will see plans for new schools to add to their number. This is an exciting time for education in Ipswich and I am sure the upward trend will continue this year.
Finally, you will not see it but in a factory in Switzerland and in another in Derby, they will be beginning to assemble the new trains that will come to our railway in the next two years. I know that this paper will be there to take photographs so I am sure that commuters and travellers who have long deserved better will be able to know that relief is on its way.
I don’t need to tell you that the one thing I can guarantee is that this is going to be an important year politically. My fervent hope is that we can achieve what the prime minister mentioned in her New Year message: a sense of unity in our nation and a shared determination that we can build a country that works for everyone.