May 21 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Working behind the scenes on some of the resort’s biggest projects, publicly-funded Felixstowe Futures has attracted an air of mystery – and concerns over secrecy. It is now seeking to explain its work and its role as it embarks on two crucial years for the town. RICHARD CORNWELL met the team.
Felixstowe Futures has helped attract more than £16m for regeneration of the seafront and town centre in the past three years. Key achievements and investment so far include:
■ More than £1m from Suffolk Coastal towards the Felixstowe regeneration programme.
■ £1.5m Haven Gateway Growth Point funding and Suffolk County Council transport funding towards the shared space project in Hamilton Road and Bent Hill.
■ Funding for the Seafront Gardens restoration – including £2.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
■ The new £240,000 Triangle canopy and open-air arena, plus new toilets on Crescent Road car park.
■ £10m from the Environment Agency for the Central Felixstowe sea defences.
■ Working with the Landguard Partnership on a range of projects, including the new visitor centre.
■ Launch of Martello Path coastal walk and Visit Felixstowe website.
■ New marketing strap-line created “Felixstowe – Great Days by the Sea”.
■ Supported Felixstowe Business Enterprise Group bid to secure £10,000 from the Portas Pilot scheme towards the town events co-ordinator role.
IT is a vital two years for Felixstowe – and if all goes according to plan, it could see the seaside town transformed.
Recession still dominates the headlines but millions of pounds in investment is pouring in to regenerate the resort.
The old Bartlet Hospital is becoming luxury apartments, a new medical centre will be built on the edge of town, a maritime-themed park on the south seafront, and possibly one – or even two – new superstores and many new homes could be built.
Most people’s eyes though will be on the main seafront – with the area between Bath Tap and Sea Road set for a major makeover.
The seafront gardens – those around the Spa Pavilion and next to the Town Hall – will be restored and enhanced in a £2.76m project, a new pier built in a multi-million redevelopment, and the area around the leisure centre completely changed.
Co-ordinating the main seafront work is Felixstowe Futures, acting as the go-between, helping to gain funding, bring parties together, and steer developers through the complexities involved in bringing major projects to fruition.
Programme manager Joseph James – who works with a small team based at Felixstowe Town Hall – said the completion of the south seafront maritime park, car parks, picnic areas and Martello Tower is currently the “absolute top priority” and in the short-term the improvement of the derelict boating lake area.
Among the main priorities will be:
n To attract external funding;
n Improve attractiveness for tourists of Landguard, seafront and town centre;
n Seek and support new developments on Sea Road;
n Secure a short-term solution for the boating lake area;
n Improve public relations and marketing and help reach a wider audience;
n Support town centre trade and viability;
n Help deliver the Seafront Gardens restoration project;
n Provide support for the Spa Pavilion, south seafront maritime park, and Landguard.
“We reviewed what had been delivered already, what was in progress and the options for the future,” said Mr James.
“We wanted to confirm what our priorities are and some were retained and some were not.
“There are some options which have been considered but are never going to happen – such as the Winter Gardens proposed near the Spa Pavilion. Then there are others, such as a hotel on Convalescent car park, which are an aspiration but not immediate – they might happen in the future. Those are not a priority and we are not out there trying to do them, but if the option comes along we want to be involved.”
Mr James said the new pier, revamp of Pier Bight and the derelict boating lake, and seafront gardens were the key projects.
“We are acting as the go-between with Pier Amusements and district council and the Environment Agency over some of the issues – mainly around land and coastal defences – which need to be resolved,” he said.
“What we can do is make sure the different departments that need to be involved know what is happening, to co-ordinate what needs to be done, to oil the wheels.
“We have clear guidance from the steering group that we now have an amazing opportunity for Felixstowe with the pier development and we must make the most of that opportunity.”
Felixstowe Futures chairman Tony Coe said one of his “biggest bugbears” was the state of the area between Felixstowe Leisure Centre and Manning’s in Sea Road.
“But things cannot be done out of sync – things have to be done in a certain order and the pier is key to getting this area moved forward,” he said.
“We need to make sure that what happens is right for the resort – we don’t want to do something which in two years time we have to un-do because of something else”
Another key project is to link the seafront and the town centre – encouraging townspeople and visitors to use both.
“Town centres are going through a big change across the country. We want to work with the chamber of trade and the various organisations in the town to increase the viability of the high street – to help it to change with the times make it lively and attractive and interactive,” said Mr Coe.
“There is so much happening in Felixstowe at the moment, so much opportunity. Our aim is to be able to look back in five to ten years and say we did it – what a fabulous improvement to Felixstowe and its facilities.”