Safety bar on Felixstowe councillors

DESPITE being clad in protective suits in case of asbestos, two councillors were today still barred from entering a publicly-owned building.Mike Ninnmey and Harry Dangerfield are part of a council task group deciding the future of the Felixstowe property but claim they have been denied access to it, despite repeated requests.

DESPITE being clad in protective suits in case of asbestos, two councillors were today still barred from entering a publicly-owned building.

Mike Ninnmey and Harry Dangerfield are part of a council task group deciding the future of the Felixstowe property but claim they have been denied access to it, despite repeated requests.

They want to see the state of the building – and assess whether it should be demolished or if it could be used for housing and an arts centre.

The Herman de Stern, a former theatre and community centre, stands on the 17-acre south seafront which Suffolk Coastal is planning to use for around 200 new homes and some low-key leisure facilities.

It would be bulldozed as part of the redevelopment as it provides the "gateway" to the site and also because it would be too costly to remove asbestos inside.

"All we want to do is have a look round – it is a council-owned building, a council asset, but no-one will let us inside," said Mr Ninnmey.

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"We are both on the task group which is considering the future of the south seafront and its assets and we want to see if the proposals are the best for this building. We are also trying to gain access to the cold war bunker, Martello Tower and housing the council owns on the site."

They had asked Richard Carter, head of estates at the council until his recent departure, and been told that the keys of the Herman de Stern were with consultants and there was no other way of getting inside.

"I think it is a disgrace that the council wants to demolish what is a wonderful building and part of Felixstowe's history, but I need to see inside to check the situation and be sure," said Mr Ninnmey.

The building at the end of Sea Road was originally built as a convalescent home and has seen a number of uses over the years, including as a thriving theatre.

A council-commissioned report suggested it could be a theatre and arts centre but that would cost £2 million. Stage Door Theatre Company set up the theatre for a tiny outlay but the council evicted the group.

"Housing is an important part of the redevelopment too – the building used to have three or four flats upstairs – and we don't want to lose housing just to provide more," added Mr Ninnmey.

Suffolk Coastal is entering a deal with Bloor Homes to develop the site and a planning application is expected soon.

A £20,000 consultants' report on the Martello Tower is also now being considered by senior councillors and officers but is not being issued to other councillors or the public at this stage.

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