'Blue sky thinking' needed to turn Suffolk fortress into tourist attraction
- Credit: RICHARD CORNWELL
Talks are underway aimed at turning a historic war-time fortress into a tourist attraction - with those involved urged to adopt some "blue sky thinking".
Martello Tower P sits at the centre of the Martello Park development on Felixstowe seafront with panoramic views of the resort and its coast.
The Napoleonic tower - built as part of a chain of 103 towers along England's south-east and east coast to ward of a feared French invasion in the late 18th and early 19th centuries - has been restored in recent years and a number of projects have been considered for its future.
While volunteers from Coastwatch keep an emergency look-out from their station at the top of the monument, there are currently no plans on the table for the main part of the building.
East Suffolk Council had a plan to get the tower open for Easter and hold some low-key events, but was postponed due to the Covid pandemic.
A meeting of the town-district councils' joint liaison group was told an officer group was now working on the future of the tower and a meeting had taken place with Historic England to discuss possible options.
The council was to commission an access survey to see how easy it is to access the building by the public.
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The officer group was also planning, when virus restrictions allow, to visit other towers owned by local authorities to see how they have been transformed into a variety of attractions - including museums, visitor centres, galleries, and some into private homes and holiday accommodation.
Chairman of the liaison group Steve Gallant called for creative ideas and some "blue sky thinking" on what can be done with the tower in the long term, to attract visitors.
A meeting has been held with the Felixstowe Society to kickstart a Friends of Martello Tower P group later this year.
Previous proposals put forward for the tower have included an upmarket restaurant, art gallery and craft and exhibition space, and an arts and education centre called Window on the World, which would have seen building transformed into a multi-faceted arts, education and discovery centre for studies in environmental and coastal sciences, with new technology at its heart.
The group was told the masterplan for the south seafront was currently being refreshed and it was agreed improved signage was needed to Landguard Fort and other attractions.