Felixstowe takes control of town hall

SUFFOLK'S premier resort is seizing back control of its own destiny . . . bit by bit.Felixstowe has been ruled by Big Brother Suffolk Coastal District Council from 13 miles away for more than 30 years.

SUFFOLK'S premier resort is seizing back control of its own destiny . . . bit by bit.

Felixstowe has been ruled by Big Brother Suffolk Coastal District Council from 13 miles away for more than 30 years.

It has been a big bugbear with not just politicians but residents, too, and there have been rumblings of political independence for decades.

Now, the seaside town has taken a big step towards having more say in what goes on in the resort and once again has ownership of its Town Hall - which is set to become a civic and community centre for the use of the whole town.

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The sun shone as mayor Joan Sennington received the key of the door from Suffolk Coastal chairman Cliff Cocker to symbolise the completion of months of negotiations.

Felixstowe Town Council is now the proud owner of the seafront building, in which it has been a tenant since 1974 when the resort's council was stripped of its powers in the local government reorganisation.

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It has cost the council around £130,000 to get the building back. It has taken on a loan of £500,000 for the purchase and work needed to create access for people with disabilities, including to the council chamber upstairs.

Town clerk Susan Robinson said the Town Hall had “huge potential” and the council wanted the public's ideas for it.

“We are very excited about the huge potential of the building to serve the town - this is a building for the people of Felixstowe, not just the town council,” she said.

“We have some ideas for the future already but we would welcome any ideas members of the public may have for its use.

“It is a very beautiful building and it should be used by as many organisations as possible.”

Mrs Sennington said: “This is an auspicious occasion for the town, taking our Town Hall back.

“We have some ambitious plans for this wonderful building. It deserves a little tender loving care and once again it will be a prestigious centre and focus for Felixstowe.”

The town council is gradually seeking more powers and already is working jointly with the county council on highways issues and in running the town's library, and has long-term hopes of taking on some roles from Suffolk Coastal, such as car parks.

Many of the council's ideas have been taken up nationally and it has played a leading role in solving many of the resort's problems.

How do you think the Town Hall could be improved? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Felixstowe Town Hall

The Town Hall in Undercliff Road West was built in 1892 - two years before the resort had a council.

As well serving as council offices, it was also the home of the town's magistrates' court until it closed and merged with the Ipswich bench in the 1990s.

It was the setting for the trial of the suffragettes Hilda Birkett and Florence Tunks in 1914 after the pair burned down the Bath Hotel - the last major outrage committed by the suffragettes.

In the 1980s there was talk of creating a new modern purpose-built civic centre for Felixstowe in the town centre.

But it was felt it should remain on the seafront - and there were even suggestions it should be extended with a seafront restaurant on the top of the cliff gardens alongside.

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