Coastwatch HQ is saved
FEARS that a volunteer emergency service could be left homeless have been allayed – after intervention by community leaders.An eviction notice was issued to Felixstowe Coastwatch by council chiefs, who said it must leave its seafront premises by tomorrow because they stand in the middle of a site earmarked for a multi-million pound redevelopment.
By Richard Cornwell
FEARS that a volunteer emergency service could be left homeless have been allayed – after intervention by community leaders.
An eviction notice was issued to Felixstowe Coastwatch by council chiefs, who said it must leave its seafront premises by tomorrow because they stand in the middle of a site earmarked for a multi-million pound redevelopment.
Residents were furious that the group was being ordered to leave the Martello Tower on the south seafront before any planning permission has been granted for the project and months before any work will begin.
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But now, following pressure from councillors, Suffolk Coastal council chiefs have agreed to remove the eviction notice and negotiate over an extended lease for the use of the tower.
Coastwatch's volunteer force keeps an all-year-round look out over the resort's beaches and sea from the top of the tower, a former Coastguard station.
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When they see people in difficulty or danger, they report incidents immediately to the Coastguard and other appropriate authorities so that action can be taken, and have been the first to spot many incidents off the coast.
David Smith, chairman of the Suffolk Coastal task group co-ordinating the development of the 17-acre south seafront, said: "It's not our wish to stop Coastwatch having those premises and it is the intention of the south seafront project that the group will remain in that building in future.
"There may be a need at some stage for them to leave for just a short while during part of the building work.
"But there is no way they are going to be evicted."
Doreen Savage, chairman of the resort regeneration group, said Coastwatch was a vital part of the resort's emergency and rescue service network. She believed the only reason it might have to vacate the tower was if building works prevented access but pledged to investigate this aspect.
Ron Bright, Coastwatch station manager for Felixstowe and regional controller for the organisation, said: "Everything has been straightened out with the council and negotiations are now taking place over an extended lease.
"Our continuation here has been secured and we are very pleased."
Observers keep watch from the look-out point at the top of the tower every weekend and Bank Holiday throughout the year, watching the busy shipping lanes, a myriad of sailing yachts and pleasure craft, and swimmers in the bay.
The station is part of the National Coastwatch, which was formed in the early 1990s after the network of coastal watch stations was closed around the UK.
n New volunteer observers are always needed to join the Coastwatch team – further information available from Mr Bright on 01394 273424.