Felixstowe's Hamilton Road back in 1976 - far fewer independent stores today.

Town needs to be ready to face changes

Friday, February 22, 2013
10.33 AM

ACCORDING to those Tesco people Felixstowe’s town centre now has an “amazing opportunity” to reinvent itself.

Because people will no longer be travelling out of town for their main shop, Hamilton Road can provide the range of non-food stores shoppers used to go to Ipswich to enjoy.

The big question is how this will be achieved – bearing in mind Felixstowe has few large premises to attract such stores. Its largest is set to become a Prezzo restaurant.

When Woolworth closed, I wrote to both Peacocks and Primark to alert them to this big empty shop. I only hope the chamber of trade and Suffolk Coastal’s economic development team did, too.

Thirty years ago when I arrived as a reporter on the Felixstowe Times, Hamilton Road was very different.

In addition to Woolworth, we had a Currys, Timothy Whites, three butchers – including nationals Baxters and Dewhurst – plus Fine Fare. Stores that were a staple of the High Street. Shops come and go, and we are lucky to have attracted WH Smith, Argos, Dorothy Perkins and Peacocks.

Far more of our shops though used to be independents – and they could survive because these were the days before the mass exodus to Tesco Martlesham or Sainsbury Warren Heath, before the internet was in every home.

Bakers Shanks and Westbrooks, Richard Fairweather’s clothes shop, Tony Cole’s chemist, Orchard House grocers, the Surplus Store, Wakelins, Courts Furnishers, the gas and electricity board shops, Wilson Radio, Moderne Jewellers, Phillips bookstore and newsagents, Jardins shoes, Dainty Homes, Visonhire and Foster’s menswear among them.

At one time it was said Felixstowe was all shoe shops, estate agents and building societies. Now it’s coffee and charity shops.

People are saying we need new and different shops.

If the town is to reinvent itself we need to be proactive, driving the agenda – seeking opportunities, inviting companies to come and look at Felixstowe, because we are not going to be discovered by chance.