Seafront development edges closer

IT will be called Martello Park and after 25 years of waiting, work on Felixstowe's multi-million pound south seafront development should start before the end of the year.

IT will be called Martello Park and after 25 years of waiting, work on Felixstowe's multi-million pound south seafront development should start before the end of the year.

The derelict beachside site has been an eyesore since the 1980s when 1,000 beach huts were removed and has been dogged with controversy ever since.

Despite huge protests, Suffolk Coastal has pressed ahead with its vision to transform the 17.5 acres into a leisure and homes scheme which will regenerate the southern part of the resort.

It will become a maritime park with the financing of the development supported by 158 new homes in a prestigious complex of flats and houses with commanding sea views.

Once the £10 million sea defence scheme currently taking place is complete, the necessary flood protection will be in place and the Environment Agency will allow the house building to begin.

The £25 million scheme is a joint project between Suffolk Coastal council and JS Bloor (Sudbury) Ltd.

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The pair had hoped to start work on the leisure facilities this week but there have been inevitable delays.

Tenders have just gone out for the £1.8 million of leisure facilities to be provided as part of the deal.

These will include a variety of new play equipment for all ages, with water play jets, picnic areas and seats, cycle paths, gardens and a small stage and seating area for musical and theatrical events.

There will also be 59 beach huts, kiosks, landscaping, public car parks and a new toilet block.

Sale of houses will also generate further funds which will be used to refurbish the Napoleonic Martello Tower and kick-start plans to use it for an arts, heritage or education project.

The council and Bloors said tenders must be in by July 11 and the contract would be awarded on September 12. Works will start on September 29 with completion by April next year.

The Martello Tower is to be the centrepiece of the project and councillors have voted to call the development Martello Park.

Rejected names were Martello Beach, South Beach, South Bay, Martello Bay and Maritime Park.

The council said the name would allow a “brand” to be developed to help market the scheme and its housing which would “promote the overall maritime theme of the development project” and “generate public and visitor interest”.

Do you like the name Martello Park? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

SAGA FILE: The story so far . . .

Secret discussions over the future of Felixstowe's south seafront began in 1983. At the time the site was occupied by 1,000 beach huts, mainly owned by people from Ipswich, bringing day-trippers throughout the summer.

Early plans featured a holiday village, self-catering apartments and prestige holiday flats, plus some unspecified leisure attractions.

In 1987, building company Fairclough was signed up to develop the site with a leisure complex, entertainments hall, indoor bowling centre, roller-skating rink or water chute, ten-pin bowling, pub, restaurant, hotel and conference facilities, jetty, 84 flats and 36 houses, 140 beach huts, plus car and coach parks.

Beach hut owners - led by James Butters and Ernest Smith - launched an action group to fight the removal of their seaside chalets which had been used for generations to provide traditional family fun by the sea.

Ipswich MP Ken Weetch and his successor Michael Irvine both joined the campaign, organising public meetings and petitions.

In 1989, after 18 months of negotiation with Suffolk Coastal council, Fairclough pulled out of the project - never explaining why.

Despite protests, huts were removed from the site - leaving it desolate - as the council sought a new development partner.

The recession of the 1990s failed to produce any new ideas for the land. Lost beach hut rents, admin and consultants' costs, a failed bid to grass the site, compensation, and other charges are estimated to have cost council taxpayers £2m over the years.

With the dawn of a new decade, a fresh bid was made to develop the land with the current partnership with Bloor drawn up to create a maritime park funded by housing - but even this met with hundreds of protests from residents who favoured a green park for informal recreation.

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