Cinema set for conversion

DESPITE more than 150 protests, a project to transform Felixstowe's bingo hall and cinema into a £3.2 million entertainments complex is set to go ahead, it was revealed today.

DESPITE more than 150 protests, a project to transform Felixstowe's bingo hall and cinema into a £3.2 million entertainments complex is set to go ahead, it was revealed today.

Planning officers are recommending that the scheme for the Palace in Crescent Road is approved – even though it will mean the loss of the town's cinema.

But not all the authorities are happy about the venture, which in the next five years, providing the government approves deregulation of the gaming industry, will also feature a casino.

Councillors are being recommended to ignore the highways authority's concerns about the development's impact on car parking for shoppers.

The scheme will have no off-street parking and be an even bigger attraction, forcing people to take up shoppers' spaces in the Crescent car park in daytime, and the authority wants a parking strategy drawn up.

Councillors are also being asked to ignore concerns of the head of environmental health, who says the project should be refused because of the disturbance it will cause to householders living near the complex.

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Owners Palatial Leisure are planning to transform the site into a 52-bedroom hotel, health and fitness club, bars, restaurant, bingo and entertainments complex, and conference facilities.

Residents have sent 93 letters of objection and 58-signature petition fearing disturbance at night, citing worries over car parking, anti-social behaviour and increased crime, and saying the scheme should be put on the seafront.

But the council has also received 66 letters of support and a 907-signature petition in favour of the project with people saying that Felixstowe needs a new attraction and that the scheme would revitalise the town centre.

In their report to Suffolk Coastal's development control sub committee south, which will decide the scheme on October 16, planning officers say the principle of the use is acceptable and controls will be placed on opening hours.

"The applicant has indicated that he is willing to come to an agreement with this council to minimise any conflict with shoppers to the town centre and encourage visitors to the hotel and leisure facilities to use the adjacent car park rather than park on the streets," said the report.

Ideally, such uses would be on the seafront but the bingo hall was a well-established use on its current site.

Managing director of Palatial Leisure, Patrick Duffy has been investing in similar facilities in Gorleston and Great Yarmouth and has already indicated that if the Felixstowe plans do not go through, he will take the investment to another town.

Contrary to residents' concerns about noise and disturbance, he feels CCTV and a hotel with night-time duty staff will boost security in the town centre. Guests would not cause noise as this would harm the hotel business.

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