Shelter idea needs real imagination

CONVERTING two of Felixstowe’s century-old seafront shelters to a new imaginative use sounds on the face of it a pretty good idea and an interesting project.

It would provide another nice feature for the promenade and help with the ongoing regeneration of the resort.

But I am torn.

Part of me truly thinks it would be great to see a couple of the Victorian and Edwardian shelters given a modern makeover.

Part of me though thinks, I like them as they are – and where will people sit and read and picnic when it’s windy or raining?

These are the places courting couples snuggle up on winter evenings, the elderly rest and watch the sea. Places which are part of Felixstowe’s seaside tradition.

It is only two shelters though – the lovely and only Victorian one from the late 1800s near Bent Hill, and one near Arwela Road in the prom-side gardens – and so there will still be others left.

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Suffolk Coastal has appealed for people to put forward “innovative and fresh ideas” for the shelters and I am looking forward to the imaginative suggestions that come in.

So far, cafes and kiosks do not fill me with hope or excitement – surely we have enough of those along the seafront already and two new ones will do little except take trade from the existing ones or, worse, drive them out of business.

Conversion of the shelters though does not look easy , with each having four separate open sitting areas which are not connected in any way, and no gas, water or electricity.

Those restrictions alone will take some imagination to overcome.

If those are the disadvantages, then the benefits of finding a way round them are huge – stunning panoramic sea views, plenty of foot traffic going past all year round, and they are on the new Martello Coast Path and close to other attractions.

Time is of the essence if anyone is interested – ideas must be in to the council by September 30 and we should all know more details next month.

I am not going to pass judgement yet – it could just prove to be a really excellent project.

? Read my full column every Wednesday in the Evening Star’s new weekly eight-page FX pull-out all about Felixstowe.