Anxious wait for tourism chiefs

IT could be another 18 months before tourism chiefs hear whether ambitious proposals for a £1million revamp of Felixstowe's seafront gardens will go ahead.

IT could be another 18 months before tourism chiefs hear whether ambitious proposals for a £1million revamp of Felixstowe's seafront gardens will go ahead.

Officers at Suffolk Coastal council are hopeful that the project will be agreed - but say gaining the lottery cash needed is a long and detailed process.

Much work has been done so far on the scheme, including having most of the gardens registered as national treasures worthy of keeping, but the first major hurdle will be obtaining a grant to carry out the design work for the facelift.

Councillors believe flower power can help keep alive the tourist trade of the seaside town - known as East Anglia's Garden Resort - and say the 7.5 acres of gardens are a "unique selling point" to attract visitors.

They agreed 15 months ago to pursue the project for a much-needed overhaul to return them to their Victorian and Edwardian splendour.

A Suffolk Coastal spokesman said: "It is a long and detailed process.

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"All but the Sea Road gardens have now been placed on the register of gardens of historic public interest.

"A proposed bid to the Lottery Commission for a project planning grant will be submitted in the autumn, which if successful will pay for consultants to draw up the relevant business and access plan.

"If we get through the first major hurdle, it will still be probably late next year before we hear if our ambitious plans have been given the necessary funding."

The aim is to persuade the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to give a massive grant and talks had been held with the fund have been "very positive".

It will refurbish the gardens from Bath Tap to the funfair, including the Spa Gardens and the Town Hall Gardens, and is estimated to cost £950,000, of which the council would pay £95,000.

But the cost must not go over £1m - or lottery funding would drop and the council will have to pay more.

If the lottery bid is not successful, the council still faces £270,000 of work to demolish and rebuild the Long Shelter, currently fenced off and unsafe, and the old Pump House, and other urgent work.

n What do you think? Will a rejuvenated Spa Gardens bring back the visitors to Felixstowe? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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