Boom time for seaside traders

FELIXSTOWE'S commercial property market is enjoying a mini-boom this summer.New shops and businesses sprouting up all over the resort's town centre.But some current shop owners claim they are suffering from a down turn in business.

FELIXSTOWE'S commercial property market is enjoying a mini-boom this summer.

New shops and businesses sprouting up all over the resort's town centre.

But some current shop owners claim they are suffering from a down turn in business.

Richard Bannister, of Bannister and Co estate agents, said Felixstowe's commercial market started picking up three to four years ago.

"All the secondary shops have gone. There are far fewer units now than there were last year which is a good sign."

The secondary shops are away from the prime area where big names such as Marks and Spencer and Woolworths are housed in Hamilton Road.

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Among the new businesses in the resort is Puccinos, a new coffee shop, which opened in Hamilton Road last week. Landsdowns estate agents, Favorite Chicken, the UK's second largest chicken fast food franchise which has more than 100 stores in the south of England, and a Thai restaurant on Bent Hill are currently being fitted out and should open soon.

Mr Bannister said Felixstowe attracts smaller, independent businesses as the shopping centre is seen as an attractive and more relaxing alternative to Ipswich.

"I don't know whether it's booming or not, the commercial side never seems to boom like the housing market.

"Because we're in a peninsular obviously we're never going to be a mad booming town but we're never going to be inundated with national retailers," said Mr Bannister, the owner of the estate agents.

He said that with the impending revamp of the Palace's bingo hall, in Hamilton Road, which will cause no disruption to the bingo hall's normal events as work is carried out at night, he could only see the market grow. Also if the £3.2million plans for the hotel and casino were given the go ahead he believed it would bring an even bigger boost to the business and tourism in the town.

However, although the commercial market has grown, some more established shop owners are worried about the lack of customers.

Joe Crowley, the owner of Joe Crowley's ice cream shop and cafe said: "It is not as good as last year. The people aren't here as last year."

He said that many of the business owners he had spoken to had also complained of a down turn in business.

Jack Kelly, owner of Phoenix Fruiterers, said: "I don't think there is not enough done by the council to pull the people in here. When I go down the front there is no good facilities, they're not looked after."

He said that coaches used to be allowed to stop near the Orwell Hotel so that visitors could use the Solar supermarket toilets.

Mr Kelly said that Solar stopped this so that coaches now miss out Hamilton Road and go straight down towards the front. This has meant that some of the elderly visitors, who are unable to climb Bent Hill, miss out on the high street altogether, which in turn has damaged Mr Kelly's grocery business.

"All we have now is charity shops and estate agents, there is not enough. If we want anything decent we have to go to Ipswich," he said.

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