Hopes of casino suffer blow

HOPES of a £3.2 million leisure complex and casino for Felixstowe today suffered a massive setback after it was revealed planners are recommending the project be rejected.

HOPES of a £3.2 million leisure complex and casino for Felixstowe today suffered a massive setback after it was revealed planners are recommending the project be rejected.

Councillors will meet next week to decide the town centre scheme, which could prove a major attraction for tourists and businessmen but has generated a fierce debate at the resort.

Nearly 200 protests have been received from residents and organisations against the development, and more than 160 signatures in favour of it.

But a report released today says that Suffolk Coastal planning officers recommend councillors refuse the casino project because it will have a major impact on the life of families living in the town centre.

After more than six months of negotiation with the developers Palatial Leisure, planners are also still unhappy with the building design which they say will be "overbearing" and an overdevelopment of the site.

Palatial Leisure wants to transform the cinema and bingo complex in Crescent Road into a three-storey "mini resort" featuring a single-screen cinema, conference centre, bingo hall and casino, restaurant, gym and 57-bed hotel.

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The scheme would create 30 new jobs.

While the company could put the casino and gym in place without planning permission, the hotel is essential to attract enough people to use the project.

Protesters have told the council they are worried that such a big development in the town centre would lead to more late-night noise and disturbance, especially if it opened until 4am, more crime, and less on-street parking for residents.

Both the Felixstowe Town Centre Residents' Association (FTCRA) and the conservation group The Felixstowe Society have objected, and the council's director of environmental services, Deborah Robinson, recommends refusal.

The Felixstowe Society feels bringing a casino into the bingo hall would be "a retrograde step" and policy says such a venture should be sited on the seafront.

The FTCRA also feels the project is against policy – it is not targeted at families, which is the target market for the resort, and will ruin the quality of life for people living in the town centre.

In a report to go before the development control sub committee on Thursday February 20, planning officers say scheme would "materially harm the living conditions of nearby residents".

It adds: "While the principle of the use is acceptable, the proposed hours of use into the early morning would result in an unacceptable amount of noise and disturbance to local residents from pedestrians and vehicles leaving the premises and car park."

Palatial Leisure's managing director Patrick Duffy has denied that the complex would cause late-night problems or entice youngsters into gambling. No-one under 18 would be allowed inside.

It would be "members only" and the company has strict rules on standards of behaviour, which forbid bad language. It would make the town safer because it would bring people and activity and provide an economic boost.

n What do you think? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich or email EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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