Demolishing building could cost public

TAXPAYERS could face a £1 million compensation bill if community leaders prevent one of Felixstowe's most prominent buildings from being demolished.Planners had issued a rarely-used special powers notice to stop the owners of The Mount - which stands on steeply sloping Bull Cliff overlooking the main seafront at Felixstowe - from being removed to allow redevelopment.

TAXPAYERS could face a £1 million compensation bill if community leaders prevent one of Felixstowe's most prominent buildings from being demolished.

Planners had issued a rarely-used special powers notice to stop the owners of The Mount - which stands on steeply sloping Bull Cliff overlooking the main seafront at Felixstowe - from being removed to allow redevelopment.

Now though the order looks set to be withdrawn next week and permission granted because of the potential cost to the public purse.

Structural engineers say there is an imminent danger of the five-bedroom building collapsing.

Officers at Suffolk Coastal say it is hard to estimate just how much compensation the council might have to pay if the notice was challenged but it would be “a very significant sum”.

Colin Bentley and John Smith bought the disused old house for £500,000. A survey has revealed that £400,000 needs to be spent to stabilise it and make it safe and habitable, and even more would be needed to adapt it for a new use.

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Mr Bentley and Mr Smith own the Coniston House retirement home next door and want to use The Mount's site to extend the home along the cliff with 46 extra bedrooms.

Even though The Mount was not listed for any architectural merit or in a conservation area, council planning officers felt it was a local landmark, has the majority of its original features and finishes; and is part of the irreplaceable Edwardian character of Felixstowe and its loss would erode the town's heritage.

It was designed by one of the resort's key early 20th century architects, Henry Buxton, who built more than 50 other buildings in the town, including Cliff House.

But the engineers report has shown the building is falling apart and only major work to it and the cliff would save it.

Floors have dropped, balconies rotted away and collapsed, and rendering over the original brickwork has done little except cover the cracks indicating subsidence. It has no gas, water or electricity.

Mr Smith said the proposal to extend Coniston would involve stabilising and strengthening the cliff. The stepped development would not be as tall as The Mount so no other property's sea views would be lost. The road surface would be made up.

He added: “We are hoping everything will go through and believe our development will make a big improvement to the area,” he added.

Should The Mount be saved? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk