Martello tower to be tourist attraction

ARTS and heritage experts are to gather in Felixstowe for a brainstorming session to look at turning an historic Napoleonic fort into a million pound-plus attraction for visitors and residents.

ARTS and heritage experts are to gather in Felixstowe for a brainstorming session to look at turning an historic Napoleonic fort into a million pound-plus attraction for visitors and residents.

The “scoping day” is to take place on Friday and will look at a wide range of ideas for the Martello Tower on the resort's south seafront.

The area around the 19th century fort is to be turned into a maritime park with some housing, but councillors believe the tower could be turned into a prestigious arts centre for the resort.

At the moment, the building is empty, with the Coastwatch group using the old Coastguard look-out tower on the top to keep an eye on the coast and beaches.

Consultants Sheeran Lock have been brought in to look at the future of the tower - with a brief to find a project which excites the imagination and brings benefits for the community and visitors.

Felixstowe port is to host the meeting, with two dozen arts experts attending for a series of sessions to look at ideas, including Commissions East, Spa Pavilion, heritage organisations and councils' arts officers.

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Port corporate affairs officer Rachael Jackson said: “I think it will be quite an intense day - they are quite keen to move on this project and to look at as many possibilities for the fort as they can.

“During the day they will also make a visit to the tower to look round it, as well as having various workshops.”

Consultants said two years ago it would cost £755,000 to convert the tower - originally built as part of a coastal chain to thwart an invasion by Napoleon's forces - into an art gallery with an area for performance, classes, talks, readings, recitals and workshops.

The council has pledged money from profit on the housing to be built near the tower for the work, as part of its deal with Bloor Homes, and this is expected to raise a six-figure sum. There has been disappointment Bloor is not refurbishing the tower as part of the development with the monument described as being the focal point of the project.

There will still be a need to find extra cash and grants will be sought from a variety of organisations.

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

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