Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Labour happily see Ipswich lie derelict

Derelict: Grafton Way site - just as Labour like it

Derelict: Grafton Way site – just as Labour like it (Pic: Ipswich Spy)

During the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Ipswich Borough Council controlled days Tesco approached the Council with a very large cheque book and requested permission to build a new superstore, a hotel, a piazza, apartments and smaller retail units on the former B&Q site on Grafton Way. Tesco also offered – if they achieved planning permission for the Grafton Way site – to pay for new traffic flow improvements where the flawed double roundabout currently exists outside the Novotel hotel. Total investment would be £90 Million from Tesco. Total jobs would be 900. And that’s not counting the construction jobs which local firms would have enjoyed during the build stage.

The Conservative-led council weighed up the pros and cons of such a development (cons very difficult to envisage) and duly gave Tesco planning permission and looked forward to the massive investment and jobs Ipswich was soon to enjoy. Labour had vigorously opposed the investment and new jobs every step of the way.

The economy, run by the Labour Government, then took a disastrous turn for the worse and by the time Labour took control of Ipswich Borough Council in 2011 Tesco were wondering if they could afford to go ahead with such a scheme. Their new chief executive, Philip Clarke, ordered a review of their proposed developments. Despite this, Tesco proposed to still invest in Ipswich but perhaps with just the superstore element of the scheme, which would still create hundreds of jobs and payment for the road improvements.

Labour’s response was not to promote Ipswich as an area where Tesco would be welcome to spend their cash and create much needed jobs for local people. Instead, Labour councillors made it perfectly clear to anyone who would listen (local paper, radio, TV) they didn’t want to do business with Tesco and in fact hated Tesco so much they opposed their smaller investment into a site in East Ipswich only to find out Tesco weren’t seeking planning permission – it was Sainsbury’s.

Needless to say when Tesco’s planners at their Cheshunt HQ were deciding where in the country to invest millions of pounds they concluded it was not worth their while to tackle rabid socialists in Ipswich on top of the challenges of developing their business in very difficult economic times. So they pulled the entire scheme, superstore and all. Bye bye millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs. I bet Cllr David Ellesmere and the Ipswich Labour politburo were very pleased with themselves. I can hear them now in Silent Street patting each other on the back for helping to keep people on welfare payments and trapped in their council-owned homes.

And today we learn the consequences of Labour’s hatred of enterprise and business. Tesco have put the Grafton Way land on the market with the Borough Council promoting the site for sole residential use which will bring in only a fraction of the investment Tesco’s scheme would have ploughed into the Ipswich economy. Consequently, this part of the Waterfront from the ‘wine rack’ down to Princes Street bridge will be derelict for many years to come.

But why should we be surprised by the destructive economic policies of Labour. Ipswich docks was one of the last in the country to be privatised and so the kick-start to regeneration of the Waterfront was ten years behind towns with similar inland ports such as Bristol – with the Ipswich redevelopment only taking place from 2003 onwards. I wonder who was in charge of Ipswich when towns like Bristol were investing for the future in the early 1990s? Yep, you guessed it. The good Old Labour party.

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Labour shut door on 900 jobs and £90M investment into Ipswich

Tesco ditch Grafton Way proposal

Tesco ditch Grafton Way proposal

Tesco have pulled out of their Grafton Way development.

The writing was on the wall since current Tesco chief Philip Clarke announced a dip in profits last year and said Britain’s largest supermarket was rethinking its expansion plans.

Hotels, a piazza and other shops were set to be built

Hotels, a piazza and other shops were set to be built

Immediately, I feared for the future of the Grafton Way site, which once was earmarked for not only a huge Tesco supermarket (bigger than Copdock) but also a hotel, other shops, a piazza in front of the waterfront etc. The previous Conservative administration at Ipswich Borough Council, apart from one local Tory butcher, were wholly in favour of the new development which would have brought £90 Million of investment into the beleaguered Ipswich economy.

But Labour were dead against Tesco from the start, voting en masse against the jobs and infrastructure investment (the Novotel roundabout was to be scrapped and this junction vastly improved) at Planning Committee. Once they regained power in 2011, they threw up the ‘Closed for Business’ sign and made it quite clear they detested enterprise, only half-heartedly welcoming Waitrose and John Lewis At Home to Ipswich on the former Cranes site off Nacton Road.

Tesco had already downscaled their proposal for the former B&Q site, which led to former Conservative Group leader, Cllr John Carnall, putting it to Labour that since they took over the reigns at Grafton House they had lost £20 Million of inward investment in “one fell swoop!”

This was more than just a quick jibe at Labour. Business is not some abstract world – it is about personal human relationships. Do you think Mr Clarke’s team looked at Ipswich when they were deciding where to axe expansion and thought “oh yes, we can do business with Ipswich Borough Council easily?”. Nope, me neither. Believe me Labour’s anti-business rhetoric would have been heard at Tesco HQ in Hertfordshire and would have been a major deciding factor in Tesco pulling out of Grafton Way.

So Labour managed to lose 900 jobs and £90 Million investment in two years. Good work, Cllr Ellesmere!