Preparing for decision on tower's future

BUILT to repel Napoleon and his forces, a Felixstowe Martello Tower is still standing firm – once again keeping out invaders trying to get inside.But councillors Mike Ninnmey, Harry Dangerfield and Dot Paddick were not trying to take over the tower, simply wanting to have a look round as they prepare to decide its future.

BUILT to repel Napoleon and his forces, a Felixstowe Martello Tower is still standing firm – once again keeping out invaders trying to get inside.

But councillors Mike Ninnmey, Harry Dangerfield and Dot Paddick were not trying to take over the tower, simply wanting to have a look round as they prepare to decide its future.

Equipped with a ladder, ropes, lights, ice picks, hard hats and plenty of warm clothing, the intrepid trio tried to scale the walls and find a way in but could not find a way past the 15ft thick walls.

"We brought the ladder because the council's estates office told us we could not enter the tower because it was unsafe. The steps certainly look a bit dodgy," said Mr Ninnmey.

"Even though it is owned by the council and we are councillors, we have been refused permission to enter and are not able to look inside to help us make a decision about the building's future.

"We would love to see this tower refurbished and opened to the public in the same way as the one at Dymchurch in Kent, but unless we can get inside to see we won't know what it is suitable for."

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Suffolk Coastal has employed consultants at a cost of £25,000 to look at the future of the fort, which stands on the south seafront site which is to be used for a housing project with some low-key leisure facilities.

Mr Ninnmey said the publicly-funded consultants' report was now with the council – but council leaders were refusing to let councillors or public see it.

Despite this, some outside bodies had been given a partial briefing on its contents, and the resort regeneration forum had been asked to agree that the tower would be suitable for an art gallery.

"I think the council should be looking at the military history of the tower, one of only a few left, and the fact that it stands beside a cold war bunker – surely a unique situation and an opportunity to feature the different coastal defences that have spanned 200 years on this coast," he said.

"Suffolk Coastal has a wonderful opportunity for a military trail of coastal defences with Bawdsey and Landguard Fort either side of this."

Mr Dangerfield said he could not understand why the Martello Tower had not been in the south seafront scheme from the start.

Bloor Homes, which will build 200 homes, should be paying for its renovation as part of the partnership scheme with the council.

Mrs Paddick said: "The council has spent years buying buildings on this site and now what we are told are assets are becoming liabilities – they just want to get rid of them."

A council spokeswoman said people were not allowed inside the Martello Tower until the estate team had carried out a risk assessment – it could face litigation for negligence if someone was hurt while inside.

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

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