This morning I asked the Transport Secretary to communicate very clearly to Highways England Ipswich’s expectation that a speed limit solution to the closures is in place before the next windy winter period. The closures of the Orwell Bridge grind our town to a halt and cause immense disruption to residents and businesses alike. And this was something that came across very clearly in the responses to my surveys in Ravenswood and Chantry recently. It was good that in response to my question the Transport Secretary did send the message very clearly to Highways England today that the timetable mustn’t slip.
He also mentioned the safety work being done by Highways England in a wind tunnel. This wind tunnel was closed due to Covid-19 but I was able to get the work prioritised after I sent a letter to the University in question. I’m glad the Transport Secretary is also expecting this on his desk by the end of this month. I’ve got another progress call with Highways England next month where I’ll be sure to raise the results of the wind tunnel work and the timetable. The pressure on Highways England to deliver must be kept up as we reach the crucial point in this campaign.
Visited the Mansion and Ipswich Museum yesterday to hear about plans to acquire new funding to make significant investments in the offerings over the next couple of years. Significant opportunities for improvements particularly at the Museum where I believe there is greater capacity to tell the story of the Town particularly over the recent past. Would be good to have strong focus on all the different parts of the Town and communities and how they all came to be. There is a slight focus on this towards the end of the Museum exhibition but could be a lot more.
Would be interested to hear all your views. There is currently a public consultation ongoing regarding future plans.
Our town centre is at the heart of life in our town but it faces many challenges which have only been made far greater by Covid-19. That’s why I used a question in Parliament today to call on the Government to release the £25 million Town Deal Funding allocated to Ipswich in the October funding round, in line with our local strategy for the regeneration of our town centre.
A lot of work has gone into developing a clear strategy for our town centre under the Ipswich Vision Partnership, and I hope the Government will recognise that come October.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government who responded to my question today came to Ipswich during the General Election where I gave him a tour of the town centre and made the case for Ipswich to be included in the Fund. Now we’re in the Fund, I’ll continue to do everything I can to make sure Ipswich town centre can benefit as much as possible from it.
Clearly the future of our town centre is far from certain and this money will not be a magic bullet. But it’s a positive step which we must make the most of.
This evening I gave a speech about Ipswich’s churches and the effect Covid-19 has had on them. Our churches are fundamental part of the story of our town and they remain central to life in Ipswich today. Their closure has been particularly difficult for many in Ipswich who go to them to worship or to access important community services. That’s why I called on the Government to make support available to them if necessary.
I directly raised two community services provided at churches in Ipswich which sadly won’t be reopening after the lockdown because of the financial pressures of Covid-19 – the Quay Place wellbeing centre at the St Mary at the Quay church near the Waterfront and the Tourist Information Centre at St Stephen’s Church. Both these services have had a hugely positive impact on our town over the years and it won’t feel like going back to normal without them.
But as I said in my speech, both these churches have gone through difficult patches in the past and it’s now up to us to find new uses for them so they can continue to serve future generations. And I’m glad the Minister was able to provide assurances that the Churches Conservation Trust is working to ensure that the St Mary at the Quay church can reopen and serve our community again.
Last week, I also visited the St Lawrence Café at St Lawrence church which has recently reopened. The café has been sorely missed during lockdown and it’s good to see it back up and running. I was able to speak to the wonderful staff there about the challenges around reopening and let them know they have my full backing. I’ve also been in close contact with local church leaders during the Covid-19 outbreak and I’ve been clear that they and their congregations have my full support as Ipswich’s MP. I’ll continue to do everything I can to support all our local churches as we embark on our recovery from the virus.