I BADLY want to be proved wrong, but I don’t think the Spa Pavilion will ever re-open.

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Restaurant to bring jobs

MIXED feelings about the old Candler furniture store becoming a Prezzo Italian restaurant.

Lots of people like the idea and it will certainly be good for Felixstowe, but it’s a shame to lose our biggest shop unit which could have attracted a Primark or The Range or similar major retailer, and leaves no other opportunities in the town centre when the constant moan is for different or new shops.

Visitors especially – and residents – will like Prezzo, and the 20 new full-time jobs will be welcome.

It’s surprising how a revamp can change the face of somewhere. The old warehouse out the back is to be converted to small businesses with some new units for offices or small firms built in the car park, providing another 20-plus jobs, too.

Felixstowe has had three cinemas, three theatres, three nightclubs at one time, and one of the biggest dance halls in the region, but today – just at the point when its population is about to expand by around 20 per cent – is left with very little in the way of entertainment venues.

All we have is our cinema. Use it, so we don’t lose it.

The closure of the Spa was an emotional occasion – deeply sad that our town should lose such a wonderful facility for visitors, but also for residents.

To see a show in future people will have to travel to Ipswich.

Mayor Mike Deacon got it spot on when he said Suffolk Coastal was being short-sighted, and ought to have acted faster and earlier over the theatre’s problems.

The council though has never made supporting the arts a priority. It hasn’t run its own theatre for more than 15 years, and the decision to hand it over to a private company has never lived up to expectations.

Over that period the quality of shows has declined, ticket prices have risen, audience numbers have fallen dramatically.

Why the council didn’t step in three years ago when it could see the situation developing is a mystery. That would have given plenty of time for a shake-up, for a solution to be identified or to have worked with the community to form a trust with plenty of pump-priming cash.

Even the consultants employed by the council said the contract should have been twice the £240,000 a year Suffolk Coastal was paying for a theatre of that size for a community as big as Felixstowe.

The council though has always been keen to keep its council tax as low as possible. Band D households pay £149 a year compared with £309 in Ipswich. You get what you pay for. Of course, many residents will be in favour of a low tax – especially in these tough times.

Our problem now is what will become of the Spa. With no council support – it would rather sell the venue – anyone trying to take it over, a trust comprising volunteers or even a professional operator, will have to think very carefully.

All I can see is deterioration, vandalism, an eyesore in the middle of the resort’s £2.7m refurbished gardens, followed by demolition and a block of flats with seaviews.

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