Derelict site could be resort’s flagship

IT’S a land of lost opportunity.

More than 25 years since the possibility of creating a major holiday development to regenerate the resort was first explored, the south seafront sadly still stands empty.

It’s the tattiest part of Felixstowe – a derelict, barren eyesore, which does nothing to enhance the resort’s attractiveness or attractions for visitors or residents.

Now it is likely to remain that way for years to come.

But it could have been so different.

Back in 1985 when I first discovered councillors were meeting behind closed doors to discuss the future of the 17-acre site – at that time home to 1,000 beach huts – the dream was huge.

It was to have been a top-quality holiday village with hotel and conference centre, skating rink, leisure complex, entertainments hall, water chute centre, ten-pin bowling, bowls hall, shops, pub, restaurant, a jetty, car and coach parks, 36 houses and 84 flats.

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Negotiations with a developer appeared to be progressing well right from the start and within a couple of years beach huts were being removed in readiness for the builders to begin.

Sadly – through no fault of the council – the developers pulled out.

It was the start of a sequence of successive disasters for the project which would gradually dilute the development and switch it from being the massive boost to the resort’s tourism trade everyone had hoped for . . . and change it into a housing estate.

The plan now is for a �25 million scheme to create a maritime park and homes.

Compared with the original plans, just �1.8m will be spent on low key leisure facilities – water play jets, play areas, picnic places, cycle paths, gardens, toilets, and a small stage and seating area for musical and theatrical events – with 158 homes built.

No-one doubts that the homes are needed – though whether local people will be able to afford upmarket seafront properties is another question – but it is such a shame that the original regeneration vision will not be realised.

The big question, too, is how much this project has cost over the years – not just in council officers’ time, consultants, but also lost revenue from the beach hut sites – with nothing in return.

Should homes on the site have been demolished so soon, and when we will now see any development start?

Recession will ensure that no-one is brave enough to make a start anytime soon, but Felixstowe needs to ensure this site becomes the flagship for its future and doesn’t stand empty for another 25 years.