Fears for coastwatch
VOLUNTEERS keeping watch over safety on Felixstowe seafront today fear they could be forced out of their lookout – because a lack of anti-fire measures is putting them at risk.
VOLUNTEERS keeping watch over safety on Felixstowe seafront today fear they could be forced out of their lookout - because a lack of anti-fire measures is putting them at risk.
Councillors are determined to let Coastwatch stay at its HQ but are worried English Heritage will object to £15,000 work to install fire doors and alarms.
Without the work, experts say the Coastwatch volunteers' lives are under an "unacceptable risk" in their lookout on the roof of the Martello Tower.
That would mean the group would have to leave the premises in Langer Road - removing a vital part of the resort's sea safety patrol and rescue network.
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Today Coastwatch is keeping fingers crossed that Suffolk Coastal's negotiations with English Heritage succeed in finding a solution.
Coastwatch publicity officer John Lowery said: "It would really be catastrophic if we had to move out of the Martello Tower, even on a temporary basis.
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"We are very concerned about what is happening. We have an excellent working relationship with the council and we know they will fight on our behalf.
"But the tower is important because it has all our radios and equipment in it, and it gives us a view of virtually the whole seafront."
Volunteers man the tower at Wireless Green all year round - informing the Coastguard of incidents they see on the beach and in the sea.
Andy Smith, chairman of the south seafront task group, said Coastwatch played a vital role and it would be "extremely regrettable" if it had to move out.
"We want to try to keep Coastwatch there if we can and we shall be looking at every possible option to do so," he said.
Assistant clerk of the council, Bruce Laws said English Heritage could refuse to allow fire alarms to be installed and other work to be done because it could harm the fabric of the historic monument.
The council's risk assessment had found nine major fire safety problems. A programme of essential work to overcome most of these had been drawn up.
In the short term, interim measures had been agreed so Coastwatch could carry on - but if the essential work was refused, the group would have to leave.
The work would include an automatic fire detection and alarm system, fire extinguishers, fire doors with vision panels, and improvements to stairs. There might also be a need for a rope ladder from the roof to the ground.
English Heritage said the work programme would need consent and access would have to be banned until a scheme could be put in place. It would want any scheme done to be part of a major refurbishment of the tower to allow public use.
n Should Coastwatch be allowed to stay in the tower, or is too dangerous? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk
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