Casino scheme prompts new storm
STORM clouds are gathering today over moves to open a high-class casino on Felixstowe's seafront – with residents launching a major protest campaign.More than 1,000 petition forms have been circulated and opponents hope councillors will veto plans to turn the upstairs fitness suite at the Regal complex into a "gambling joint".
STORM clouds are gathering today over moves to open a high-class casino on Felixstowe's seafront – with residents launching a major protest campaign.
More than 1,000 petition forms have been circulated and opponents hope councillors will veto plans to turn the upstairs fitness suite at the Regal complex into a "gambling joint".
Campaigners say Felixstowe does not need a casino, gym members do not want to lose their facility, and seafront residents fear more late-night noise and parking problems.
Elizabeth Smith, of Tacon Road, who has been helping with the petition, said: "The gym is a huge asset to Felixstowe and is used by people of all ages – from youngsters to pensioners, not people who are likely to use a casino.
"It's a great and reasonably cheap way to keep fit and to take it away would not be logical or moral.
"We have enough problems in this area with parking without adding to it. This casino will also open until 1am, bringing more noise and car door slamming.
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"Felixstowe is an old-fashioned traditional resort and while we are not against change and modernisation, it's not somewhere you would expect a casino."
Resident Steve Webster said: "The prime occupiers of the seafront are residents and they are definitely not happy with these proposals.
"They are never consulted about any of these schemes and have to endure the
steadily increasing noise, parking chaos, and litter while the businessmen involved go home to a totally different area.
"The council has declared its objective to aim the resort part primarily at 'families with young children' and 'senior citizens'. Just the sort of people that want casinos and betting shops?"
Gym operator Allison Swann has built up membership from 50 to more than 800 in a year. She fears the casino plan could harm her business by deterring people from joining and has stressed that it is not closing.
"How can anyone favourably compare a gambling joint to a health and fitness centre? Which of the two will benefit people most?" she said.
"Some 850 people will be bitterly disappointed if the centre closes. It is not just the very young and fit who have become members. It is wonderful to seen the not so healthy, the not so fit, the not so young enjoying the benefits of our centre and its health-promoting facilities."
In a letter to Suffolk Coastal, Stan Threadwell, boss of Regal owners SMT Amusements Ltd, said modern seaside visitors now looked for "experiences" and many resorts were lacking in sufficient attractions.
"The provision of gambling facilities in Felixstowe is vitally necessary to improve its competitive status. While efforts are being made to regenerate, the need for up to date attractions for a modern society are vital if the town is to attract and sustain business," he said.
If approved, the scheme for a casino and bar, and extended slot gaming floor and ground floor restaurant would bring a "new stream" of high-class visitors.