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Ipswich Maritime Trust chairman Ben Good on his hopes for the future of the town’s waterfront, including new maritime festival

A heritage trust boss said he was optimistic for the future of Ipswich waterfront after outlining measures aimed at making it a key attraction.

Last month, Ipswich Maritime Trust (IMT) celebrated as the waterfront was awarded heritage harbour status – one of 12 in the UK to now hold the honour.

Ben Good, chairman, said it was terrific that Ipswich, with its extensive nautical history going back centuries, was receiving the recognition it deserved.

Ipswich waterfront gained Heritage Harbour status last month. Picture: IMT
Ipswich waterfront gained Heritage Harbour status last month. Picture: IMT

Now, the trust and its partners will work to put the waterfront in the ‘hearts and minds’ of residents.

Measures include hosting events, making the history of the waterfront more accessible and educating the next generation.

Plans are also in place to launch a maritime festival next year.

Ben Good, chairman of the Ipswich Maritime Trust. Picture: IMT
Ben Good, chairman of the Ipswich Maritime Trust. Picture: IMT

Mr Good said: “Ipswich has a lot of heritage to talk about and we’re interested in promoting that as much as we can.

“We have a three-pronged approach that will form the basis of our plans for the next few years.

“The first is thinking about how we can make the tangible aspects of the waterfront – photos, boat access, the built environment – things you can see, feel and touch, more accessible.

“There’s also a youth programme. We want to go into schools and talk about our history and create opportunities for young people to get out on the water, which also includes continuing our bursary scheme.

Ipswich Waterfront has been handed Heritage Harbour status.
Ipswich Waterfront has been handed Heritage Harbour status.

“The last area of focus is events. While things do happen on the waterfront, they sometimes don’t relate to a maritime theme. We want to put it at the forefront.”

Mr Good said the maritime festival would hark back to the past, while shining a light on the future.

Plans are in the early stages, but the team hopes to dazzle audiences with ships, a range of maritime-themed activities, a performance stage and the chance for schools to show their projects.

It could also offer a glimpse of what the sector could look like in the future, while offering a look at what the world might look like as sea levels rise.

Ipswich Maritime Trust is partnered with a number of key players, including Ipswich Borough Council, Ipswich Central, Associated British Ports (ABP) – which owns Neptune Marina – and others.

Last year, a row erupted between boat owners and ABP over plans to move pontoons.

Residents, business owners and berthholders feared this could have a negative impact.

A petition to ‘save Ipswich’s waterfront’ garnered thousands of signatures.

Mr Good said ABP had listened and was positive a compromise would be found.

“IMT’s view is that if there was to be a reconfiguration of the quay, it would still allow boats to access it and moor, while also allowing them to turn around,” he said.

“We’d also hope heritage boats could still access the wet dock.”

While Ipswich’s waterfront is popular, Mr Good said, many in the town did not connect with its maritime history.

He said: “Heritage is an inter-generational thing. We have to preserve it for the future, so it’s vital to get young people engaged.

“We’re very excited for the future and we hope the people of Ipswich can get behind us.”