Felixstowe viewing area revelation

ACTION could be taken to re-open one of Felixstowe's biggest attractions . . . but is being delayed because more than half a dozen groups need to agree.

By Richard Cornwell

ACTION could be taken to re-open one of Felixstowe's biggest attractions... but is being delayed because more than half a dozen groups need to agree.

Meanwhile, The Evening Star can today reveal why the popular viewing area alongside the port has been closed for four months. For the sorry saga of the viewpoint, visited by nearly half a million people a year, is all down to a gap in steel pilings no bigger than a letter-box and two small shingle islands suddenly forming off Landguard Point.

The front row of parking spaces and the prom used by people to view the operations of Felixstowe port and Harwich harbour have been fenced off with seven feet high metal barricades since May.

It has meant thousands this summer were unable to enjoy their favourite pastime shipwatching, and Samantha Dorling who runs the Crow's Nest snack bar has seen her trade tumble.

The viewing area was closed for safety reasons after part of a prom in front of Landguard Fort alongside suddenly collapsed.

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That was due to a gap in the steel piles 12 feet below.

Sand and shingle was sucked out of the gap, about four inches tall and 12 inches wide, by the sea until the walkway above crumbled and collapsed.

But port corporate affairs manager Paul Davey said the Viewing Area – owned by the port but leased to Suffolk Coastal council – faced other problems, too.

"The area below the viewing area constantly suffers from erosion and material being deposited back on shore, but more recently there has been erosion and not so much put back by the sea – leaving a net loss," said Mr Davey.

"This meant the beach was dropping even more and we needed to find out the root cause of this and take some action to deal with it."

Engineers have surveyed the area and found two knolls, or small shingle banks, forming near Landguard Point. It is believed material usually deposited at the viewpoint is forming the islands.

"A plan has now been drawn up to destroy these knolls and place the material from them back on the beach below the Viewing Area. We do not have a timetable yet but it will be done as quickly as possible," he said.

But before anything can be done, agreement has to be reached with several bodies – including English Nature, English Heritage, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Coastal council, Landguard Forum and Harwich Haven Authority.

"These issues always take longer than you think. We had to establish why the beach was eroding and solve that problem, and now everyone needs to be consulted and work scheduled," said Mr Davey.

English Heritage will also have to repair its own prom in front of the fort.