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Rescue plan for threatened building

PUBLISHED: 00:59 21 May 2004 | UPDATED: 04:54 02 March 2010

A MYSTERY businessman has today come up with a rescue package for one of Felixstowe's most historic and endangered buildings, which experts say needs £550,000 spent on it.

A MYSTERY businessman has today come up with a rescue package for one of Felixstowe's most historic and endangered buildings, which experts say needs £550,000 spent on it.

But council chiefs have rejected his offer – and say the Herman de Stern centre will be demolished.

They say it is too late to change their plans now and will not be entering into discussions over the proposals.

The businessman – who has not been named – has asked Suffolk Coastal if he could convert the former theatre and community centre in Sea Road into a headquarters for his company.

His offer would be welcomed by campaigners who have been fighting to preserve the century-old property, which was originally built as a convalescent home as a thank you to the people of the resort by Baroness de Stern.

However, although the council wants to break its own policy by demolishing the building to make way for a new pub and restaurant, it says office use would also be against policy as the Herman de Stern should be used for leisure.

Richard Ward, Suffolk Preservation Society director, has been particularly scathing of the proposals to demolish the Herman de Stern, which stands at the gateway to the 17-acre south seafront site.

"The society considers the justification for the demolition to be totally unacceptable, unconvincing and to be the weakest case ever put forward in order to secure the demolition of an important historic building," he said.

Bruce Laws, assistant council chief executive and lead officer for the project group, said it had been hoped the building could be kept but this had proved not to be the case and there had been "considerable impracticality" in reusing it.

"Because of its construction and lay-out, the building is not easy to convert economically to other uses," he said.

The building is riddled with asbestos and the cost of conversion to another use would be around £550,000.

"In the light of this the response to the recent approach has been that the project has moved far beyond the stage of keeping the current building," said Mr Laws.

"This is in view of the present position with the project, and the fact that proposals that accord with cabinet approval are currently awaiting development control determination.

"It is not, therefore, appropriate to re-open discussions on the future of the Herman de Stern at this time."

n Are you the businessman who wants to save the Herman de Stern? If so, get in touch with the Evening Star's Felixstowe newsdesk on 01394 284109.

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