Resort looks to the future with confidence

FELIXSTOWE: Over the next few years, Felixstowe will get a makeover worth tens of million of pounds that will be the envy of other seaside towns.

Many will say about time, too – because there has been an air of neglect pervading parts of the town in recent years.

Good things have been happening in the background - such as the Clearwater scheme to give us clean seas and beaches, or more obvious ones like the �10million of new sea defences and the final agreement for the south seafront redevelopment, currently held up by the recession.

On the surface, though, some areas have been looking a little jaded, needing an investment injection, and new attractions have definitely been needed.

Now though there is a real political will and drive to get the regeneration of the resort moving, and this year will see a number of high-profile, exciting projects come to fruition which have been long in the planning and will smarten up the town, giving it fresh impetus.

Town and district councillor Andy Smith, chairman of the town centre management group and deputy leader of Suffolk Coastal, said this year was vital for the town.

“We have made huge strides in the past couple of years in bringing together organisations to work in partnership, to assemble the finance needed for various projects, finalise detailed designs and actually get some work up and running,” he said.

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“Everyone involved is delighted with what is currently being achieved and there is so much more to do.

“This year is particularly busy, with lots of projects happening and people will see some real changes in our town.

“We want the town to be alive and to have a bright future, a vibrant future, so that it is attractive to the future generations of families who will come to live here and love it as much as we do.”

The bid to regenerate the resort started four years ago with the setting up of the Felixstowe Futures group, which has brought together representatives of the town, district and county councils, village parish councils, the chamber of trade, Haven Gateway Partnership and Port of Felixstowe.

The group has been working steadily in the background, commissioning a masterplan for the town and from that drawing up ideas of what improvement schemes to carry out and the priorities for them.

As with all such work in any town, gathering the finance has been a tricky obstacle and will continue to be so for several years in the current climate.

However, funding was secured for some schemes, such as the first phase of the �2.8m project to turn Hamilton Road into a pedestrian-friendly zone, make Bent Hill a shared space and one-way uphill, plus changes at the top of Convalescent Hill and in Undercliff Road West, all combining to discourage drivers from going through the centre of town.

Cash is also available to demolish the toilets and make the Triangle an open, attractive space and build new loos across the road, and funding is also secure for the future of Landguard, including a visitor centre and ferry berth.

It is hoped the lottery will come up with �2m for the seafront gardens, and the government �10m for new sea defences.

Other sources are being investigated for funding for other projects.

There are many plans in the pipeline and not all will be without controversy. More housing is needed if the town’s population is not to decline and to bring in new families.

? What improvements would you like to see in Felixstowe? Tell us your vision of its future – write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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FASTFACTS: Hamilton Road shared space

n The first phase of the scheme runs from Boots to Bank Corner with pavements and the road raised to the same level and the same colour.

n Pedestrians will have freedom to roam and cars will follow a wavy path down the road at 20mph max.

n There will only be a few parking spaces – for Blue Badge holders only.

n Highways experts say the work will deter people using it as a through route.

n Similar schemes elsewhere have cut traffic by 90 per cent and reduced speed to 10mph average.

n Bent Hill has received similar treatment and is now uphill only with a give way junction at the top.