Resort's heritage at risk

DEVELOPERS are today eyeing Felixstowe's landmark buildings as potential housing sites - with rich pickings to be had from demolishing much-loved properties and building upmarket ones in their place.

By Richard Cornwell

DEVELOPERS are today eyeing Felixstowe's landmark buildings as potential housing sites - with rich pickings to be had from demolishing much-loved properties and building upmarket ones in their place. Just yesterday, The Evening Star revealed Stowe House is set to make way for flats.

Felixstowe editor RICHARD CORNWELL looks at the problems facing the resort's heritage.

ALL over Felixstowe stand large detached houses in spacious grounds, many too large today for families or too expensive for people to buy and live in.

The properties are part of the resort's rich and varied townscape - each important in the look of an area, some are very fine examples of architecture, admired by residents and visitors.

But all too easy many could vanish - with the bulldozers ready and waiting to move in if planners give permission for their sites to be redeveloped with houses, flats or bungalows to fulfil the seaside town's desperate need for more homes.

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The tragedy is the fear of the resort being stripped of its heritage by developers is all too real because many properties at risk are not listed or do not stand in the conservation area.

Without that protection, planners need only decide the site is suitable for redevelopment and demolition could take place.

It has happened already:

Back in the 1980s, as campaigners raced to try to have the Cavendish Hotel listed, landowners brought in bulldozers and the 1930s art deco hotel in Sea Road - one of only two left in the country - was gone. Its site, earmarked for 54 maisonettes and kiosks was never built on.

Felixstowe Beach Station was knocked down last year as conservationists tried to have it listed - part of its site has permission for homes but there is still no sign of building.

The Herman de Stern's future has long been an issue, but once again it was not officially protected by legislation, however much it was loved by residents.

Beach House, Mrs Simpson's home in Undercliff Road East while she waited for a divorce to allow her to marry Edward VIII, was not of great architectural merit but had a key role in history. It was replaced with a huge block of flats.

As The Evening Star revealed yesterday, Stowe House in Cliff Road is set to make way for ten flats, having been sold for £1.52 million. Again it was not listed.

When there were fears recently over the future of the St Felix Home for the Blind there were suggestions it could be demolished for flats, or its garden used for development.

There has been good news in that the Bartlet Hospital is to be listed which will mean it cannot be demolished.

Of course, removing buildings to replace them with different or modern ones is not knew and is part of a town's natural evolvement, but what is at risk in Felixstowe is important properties - many in areas where replacement buildings will not be affordable to most who need them.

Councillor Mike Ninnmey said: “Getting a building listed is not easy - it requires a lot of time and energy, but it is well worth it.

“We obviously must move forward as a town and provide affordable homes for those who need them, those who work in very necessary jobs, workers we need more and more but who cannot afford to buy a house in Felixstowe.

“However, we must not lose our historic and important buildings or Felixstowe will become a plain place people will not want to move to in the first place.”

COMMUNITY leaders have vowed to battle to continue to protect the resort's heritage.

“We really didn't want to see Stowe House demolished because it is an important part of Felixstowe and its history and was the original showhouse for the whole of the then projected development of the clifftops in the 1930s,” said Andy Smith, chairman of the town plans committee.

“It is a major problem though because there is a huge incentive for developers to try this sort of thing as the sites have considerable value.

“In Felixstowe we have a huge number of potential candidates where houses could be lost for redevelopment and we have to keep a very careful and close eye on each planning application.

“We believe it is highly important to keep the special character of our town and not to lose our historical and architecturally important buildings.”

Mr Smith said the town council had had some successes and was pleased to have recently fought off proposals to demolish Marcus Lodge in Marcus Road, Old Felixstowe, and replace it with two houses and two bungalows.

But there were many more similar properties, not all in enormous grounds, which could be identified as suitable targets for similar projects.

He hoped government policy, which is demanding sites be used for high density housing, would be strengthened to place more emphasis on the need for a quality environment to help keep properties.

WEBLINKS: www.english-heritage.org.uk

www.culture.gov.uk

Which buildings in Felixstowe do you think should be listed to prevent them from being torn down for development? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

Suffolk has around 16,500 listed buildings - including some of its most outstanding architecture, such as churches, manor houses and mansions.

Buildings can be listed because of age, rarity, architectural merit, and method of construction.

Occasionally English Heritage selects a building because it has played a part in the life of a famous person, or as the scene for an important event.

All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most built between 1700 and 1840. After that date, the criteria is tighter with time, so post-1945 buildings have to be exceptionally important to be listed.

Buildings are graded - Grade I are of exceptional interest; Grade II* particularly important and of more than special interest; Grade II special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.

Listing currently protects 500,000-plus buildings.

For advice on how to get a building listed people should contact The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London SWI Y SDH.

Source: www.heritage.co.uk

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