Massive scheme nearer for Felixstowe

AFTER 20 years of controversy and a variety of proposals, a derelict seafront site is today set for a new lease of life - and a £25 million housing and leisure project.

AFTER 20 years of controversy and a variety of proposals, a derelict seafront site is today set for a new lease of life - and a £25 million housing and leisure project.

The south seafront - Felixstowe's last remaining beachside site awaiting development - has been dogged by problems over the years and a number of ambitious schemes have failed.

But today planning officers released a report giving their full backing to the latest scheme to regenerate the 17-acre site and the southern part of the resort.

They are recommending the go-ahead is given to the Bloor Homes venture by councillors when they decide it on December 8.

Last time there were more than 200 objections, but this time just 57 people have written to protest - council chiefs say changes to the scheme have improved it and overcome the complaints.

The scheme will feature a maritime-themed park with a wide variety of play equipment aimed at families with young children - ranging from hands on play panels and spring animals for the tiniest, to an assault course adventure trail, climbing boulders, space nets and trampoline for older children.

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There will be water play jets, picnic areas and seats, cycle paths, gardens, new toilets, small stage and seating area for musical and theatrical events, 59 beach huts, kiosks and land for a restaurant.

The Martello Tower will be refurbished and hoped-for extra profit from the 158 homes pay to turn it into an arts centre.

The homes - needed to pay for the leisure elements and make Bloor a profit - will be 55 three-bed houses and 87 two-bed apartments, plus homes available for rent from a housing association.

Officers had recommended approval for the last scheme 18 months ago, but councillors felt there were too many homes and more leisure facilities on a village playing field.

This time there are 51 fewer homes and far more open space and recreation facilities, with £2.47m to be spent on the park - said to be a much better deal for taxpayers.

In a 29-page report, head of planning services Philip Ridley said: “The park now occupies a larger proportion of the site and a larger part of it is given over to formal and informal play.

“The residential development now secures the refurbishment of the Martello Tower and the council is looking towards the future use of the tower as a public access art centre.”

Do you like the proposals for the south seafront? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.

Opinion - see page 6.

Saga file: 20 years of waiting . . .

1985: A small working party of councillors was set up to look into development of the south seafront - the start of two decades of meetings where the public would be rarely allowed to sit in.

1986: First ideas for the site unveiled - a holiday village and entertainments complex, plus self-catering and prestige holiday flats - but it would mean 1,000 beach huts on the land would be evicted.

1987: Despite inviting 35 developers to build the holiday village, there are still no bids.

1988: Builders Fairclough set up a deal with the council to build an entertainments hall, indoor bowling centre, roller-skating rink or water chute, ten-pin bowling, shops, pub, restaurant, hotel, conference facilities and homes.

1988: Uproar as council evicts the beach huts to make way for development - an action group is set up and a series of public meetings held by owners and Ipswich MP Michael Irvine fighting to keep their sites.

1989: Fairclough pull out as economy plunges into trouble and future of site is uncertain.

1990: Hopes high that another developer will take up the scheme, but this also fails as agreement cannot be reached on what should be built and the company pulls out.

Early 1990s: Political changes at Suffolk Coastal and slowness of the economy means the scheme is put on the backburner. Suggestions include grassing over the land and turning into a play park.

Late 1990s: Moves towards a more low-key development of the land as residents asked for their views on possible development and the idea of a maritime park emerges.

2001: Councillors try again to find a development partner saying homes on part of the land will fund a leisure scheme.

2002: Bloor Homes chosen as partner and draws up scheme for 200-plus houses, amphitheatre, wooden galleon, play areas and gardens.

2004: After huge protests by residents who fear loss of seaviews, increased threat of flooding because the land is a soakaway when the sea breaches defences, scheme is rejected.

2005: Herman de Stern which stands on the site is damaged by fire in an arson attack.