Fears for future of resort landmark

FEARS were voiced today about the security of one of Felixstowe's best-known landmarks when it becomes empty next year.

FEARS were voiced today about the security of one of Felixstowe's best-known landmarks when it becomes empty next year.

Campaigners who tried to save the Bartlet Hospital from closure want assurances that there will be proper security for the building when it closes as a hospital.

Roy Gray, who chaired the group which fought to keep the Bartlet as a convalescent home, said: “What we don't want is another Herman de Stern where the building burns down overnight.

“The Bartlet is very precious to the people of Felixstowe - whether it remains as a hospital or not, we must not lose it. It is an important landmark and well-loved.

“But when the General Hospital closed and before refurbishment of that building started there seemed to be little in the way of security. Windows were smashed by vandals.

“The Bartlet is even more vulnerable and not on a main street where people are coming and going all the time.

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“We need to know that it will be looked after because it could be a long time before any plans are agreed for its future or any work starts there.”

Mr Gray said the Bartlet's grounds were used as a cut through by walkers and sometimes cars and cycles between Bath Hill and Beach Road East.

“I think the site is very vulnerable,” he said. “It is a big building and at night it will be very dark round there when it is empty - anything could be going on. We have lost so many buildings in Felixstowe and it would be awful to lose this one.”

Mr Gray is writing to the mayor of Felixstowe, Joan Sennington, Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer and the Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) to express his concerns.

At present the Bartlet houses Felixstowe General, but when the £1.76 million refurbishment of the General is complete - probably in January or February next year - all its services will move back to Constable Road.

The Bartlet will then be closed.

The PCT has accepted an offer from PJ Livesey Group for the building but the deal has not yet been completed. The company wants to convert the hospital - a grade two listed building - into luxury apartments but has yet to submit plans to Suffolk Coastal.

Martin Royal, Suffolk PCT's director of business development, said: “We would like to reassure Mr Gray that the NHS takes its responsibility for this site seriously. We have ongoing security and maintenance contracts, which will continue until the point we hand over the building to the new owners.”

What do you think the Bartlet should become? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Felixstowe in Flames

Felixstowe's most famous fire was the arson attack by suffragettes Hilda Burkett and Florence Tunks on the Bath Hotel - used by millionaires, minor royalty and statesmen - on April 28, 1914, which left the huge hotel in ruins. Today it is the site of the Bartlet Hospital.

In 1985, the timber-built house The Hermitage was destroyed. Today a wood-clad block of flats in a similar style stands on the corner of Undercliff Road East and Beach Road East.

Firefighters fought in vain to save the old Ranelagh Theatre on the clifftops in Ranelegh Road, while also having to stop the inferno spreading to the nearby Norseland School. Today it is the site of a sheltered homes complex.

Beach House was gutted by fire in December 1989 just after a marketing campaign to sell it. It had to be demolished and its site was used for a massive complex of flats.

Already earmarked for demolition, the Herman de Stern - a former convalescent home, community centre and theatre - was devastated by fire in summer 2005, ending campaigners' hopes of saving it. A group of children were arrested but no charges were brought.

Dougie Goodall's old fishing hut - currently owned by the Fryer family - was burnt to the ground this year. The hut, with its famous lean, had stood on the shore for 60 years.