See pictures of the Felixstowe Pier building being demolished to make way for new shops, a restaurant and family fun centre
PUBLISHED: 12:01 08 November 2016
Countless couples have wandered hand-in-hand along Felixstowe pier, a myriad of youngsters have poured their pennies into its slot machines, and there may be a few great-grandparents who still treasure the memory of a childhood tram ride.
Over the last 15 years though its future has been in some doubt. Since the main structure sticking out over the sea was closed in 1999, there have been fears that it would be swept away in a storm, lost forever.
Now though it is looking forward to a new lease of life – with a redevelopment project taking place to rebuild the main building.
Demolition has moved at a fast rate over the past few days with bulldozers crunching their way through the brickwork, wood and steel frame.
The current frontage has been the same since the 1960s when it had its last rejuvenation.
When it was opened in 1905 by the Coast Development Corporation, it was half a mile in length and one of the longest in the country.
Electric tram cars ran from the pier head – a penny all the way – and steamers berthed at its end to take people to and from other resorts.
During the Second World War, the pier was severed in order to stop Germans landing on its end and then running up its length to invade.
Afterwards, the seaward section which had been cut was not mended and the outer length was demolished.
Sadly, the pier has never boasted the attractions which have blessed others around our coastline.
Mainly due to its narrow width, over the years it has featured little except kiddies’ rides and the Slippery Dip. For the most part it’s been a walk out to sea, the place many people have taken their Sunday constitutional.
It has also been home to local anglers – and fishermen still miss their sport from its end.
Owner Stan Threadwell has been determined to see the pier rejuvenated – and firmly believes it has an important place in Felixstowe’s heritage and can still play a big role as an attraction to bring visitors.
The major problem though is that a pier is an extremely expensive item to own. Mr Threadwell has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds alone on maintenance and to keep erosion at bay.
A charitable trust was set up to take over the structure and draw up plans for the future in 2002. It wanted to build a £15million Sea Dome with one of the world’s largest revolving restaurants as part of a five-deck 200ft wide pier with tenpin bowling, shops, snack bars, family entertainments with children’s attractions, bars, and a heritage centre and exhibition hall. It would have also featured a landing stage for pleasure boats and a lighthouse 150ft above sea level.
However, after years of trying, the project failed to secure the grants and support it needed and so Mr Threadwell took back ownership – and now work, understood to be costing around £3million, is well under way to create a new, striking entrance building.
Even his initial plans had to be scaled back because of costs, but the project will include modern retail outlets, a restaurant and family entertainments centre.
The part of the pier sticking out over the sea will also remain – it was found to be too costly to remove it – though because it is unsafe, people will still not be able to walk its length.
A major part of the work will be the raising of the height of the prom outside the pier to enable access for all abilities to be created from the Pier Bight car park in front of the leisure centre to the new pier facilities.
The project is expected to take 36 weeks with the grand opening next summer.
With the work to restore Felixstowe’s seafront gardens complete, the new Martello Park proving a popular family attraction, the outdoor events arena built, a new Premier Inn operating, and the Spa Pavilion also open again, it will be a vital part of the resort’s regeneration.