BY RICHARD CORNWELL
Friday, February 8, 2013
FEARS have been voiced today that a new maritime-themed park at Felixstowe will not have the “wow factor” needed to bring more visitors to the resort.
■ 1983: Secret discussions over the future of Felixstowe’s south seafront began. At the time the site was occupied by 1,000 beach huts.
■ 1987: Building company Fairclough signed up to develop the site with a leisure complex, entertainments hall, indoor bowling centre, roller-skating rink or water chute, ten-pin bowling, pub, restaurant, hotel and conference facilities, jetty, 84 flats and 36 houses, 140 beach huts, plus car and coach parks.
■ 1989: After 18 months of negotiation with Suffolk Coastal, Fairclough pulled out – never explaining why.
■ 1989: Despite protests, huts were removed from the site, leaving it desolate, as the council sought a new development partner.
■ 1990s: Recession failed to produce new ideas. Lost beach hut rents, admin and consultants’ costs, a failed bid to grass the site, compensation, and other charges cost council taxpayers around £2m.
■ 2009: Martello Park given go-ahead – 158 homes and leisure attractions, but the economic downturn delayed scheme.
■ 2012: Bloor Homes given new permission for 127 homes, including 13 affordable, plus play areas, water features, picnic areas and car parks. Martello Tower to be turned into a heritage attraction.
Town councillors were expecting the maritime-themed park to have a real “wow factor” – providing a new leisure experience for both residents and to bring extra visitors to the resort.
Original plans submitted said it would cost £2million and feature play facilities such as dancing water jets and a climb-on galleon.
Now this appears to have been reduced to £1.2m.
The park was the trade-off which persuaded councillors to ditch long-held hopes of a major tourist attraction being built on the resort’s 17-acre south seafront and allow a 127-home estate to be built instead.
Suffolk Coastal council and Bloor Homes struck a deal for the project which is set to net Bloor £31.7m from the houses, the first phase of which is currently under construction with homes for sale at £245,000 and £249,000.
In exchange for the land, the council will get some cash towards refurbishment of the Martello Tower, public car parking, and a park with play areas, picnic and wildlife areas, and a piece of land for a potential beachside café.
But the quality and quantity of the leisure facilities is worrying town councillors – and they, and Felixstowe Futures, have sent strong letters of concern to Suffolk Coastal chief executive Stephen Baker seeking answers.
Andy Smith, chairman of the plans committee, said the intention had been to allow enough homes to fund the play facilities and everyone was expecting attractions with a “wow factor”.
“There is considerable concern among Felixstowe councillors that we cannot find out any of the detail of what is being proposed and a suspicion that it is not going to be anywhere near as exciting or anywhere near as good as an attraction for the resort as we had hoped and discussed,” he said.
Suffolk Coastal said it wanted to ensure the “best possible deal” from the sale of the land and gain £1.2m much-needed leisure attractions for a key part of the resort.
“We have achieved an exciting range of play facilities for children of all ages, whether they be visitors or those living in the proposed homes or other local residents,” said a spokesman.
“Felixstowe Town Council has been fully consulted as the plans have developed and the layouts of the facilities have been finalised, and we are having regular meetings with Bloors and the town council as the development proceeds.
“We have worked hard to achieve a scheme that both successfully enhances the South Seafront area and keeps any ongoing costs to the council taxpayer down to a minimum.”