Pier revamp could pull in the crowds

IF Felixstowe is going to Bring Back the Pier, it has to be a mega-attraction. Otherwise, it’s simply not worth doing it.

Just demolishing and rebuilding it – itself a task costing probably �4 million – for people to walk out on would be pointless.

We could all do that before and very few people did it in the years leading up to its closure.

In those days it was 20p to walk out, but the only people who did regularly were the anglers who fished from the end.

If �4m was spent rebuilding, the money would never be recouped – and people certainly wouldn’t flock to Felixstowe just to stroll out over the sea and look back at the town.

In fact, these days there is very little which would make you visit.

The area next to the pier is run down and neglected, the south seafront still stands idle 26 years after development was first mooted, the old North Sea Hotel is boarded up, the Cavendish site refurbishment has failed to happen, and the beach is a mass of ugly but necessary rock groynes. At least the Spa Gardens are getting a makeover.

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What the resort really needs is a mega-attraction, something unique no other town has – and which will bring visitors from far and wide.

Only something quite outrageous is going to have the power to make people want to visit.

The last time the pier’s future was discussed the idea was to rebuild it with a Sea Dome with the world’s biggest revolving restaurant as its centrepiece, ship viewing area, a heritage centre, conference facilities, ten-pin bowling and more.

The cost was �15m – and it was estimated it would bring 200,000 visitors a year.

Now, more than a decade on, the cost is expected to be around �30m, probably more. The recent rebuilding of Weston-super-Mare pier with a theatre on the end cost �50m.

Finding that sort of money is going to be very difficult – almost certainly impossible, especially in the current recession. But for Felixstowe’s future, we have to try.