Storm of protest over casino

FEARS over children getting addicted to gambling, vandalism, and rowdiness in the early hours have prompted a storm of protest over a casino for Felixstowe.

FEARS over children getting addicted to gambling, vandalism, and rowdiness in the early hours have prompted a storm of protest over a casino for Felixstowe.

Church and community leaders, residents, businesses and shops have objected to the £3.2 million scheme to transform the Palace bingo and cinema complex.

The team behind the project say it will "enliven the activity of the town centre" – but residents say that's exactly what they don't want.

They want the town centre to keep its special Edwardian character, and say the development would be better on the seafront with the rest of the tourist trade.

Suffolk Coastal council has received nearly 140 letters of protest and petitions signed by more than 100 people.

Church leaders fear the new entertainments complex – which will include a 57-bedroom hotel, casino, cinema, arcades, bars, restaurant, conference suite and fitness centre – will tempt more children into gambling via its arcades.

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It is ironic that it will be opposite the Level 2 youth centre, where some children are counselled for problems such as addiction.

Audrey King, former moderator for Churches Together in Felixstowe, said: "It's a fallacy to think this would bring money into the town; casinos suck money out and bring in pain, drugs and crime, petty and serious.

"It will destroy our pleasant town and could tempt more youngsters into the gambling habit."

Salvation Army commanding officer Major Goff Payne said: "I am not convinced that the extension of the existing gambling facility is the kind of place the town needs – especially in the town centre.

"There are already issues surrounding addictive past-times within the town – drink and drugs, to name two – and to add gambling on a larger scale would be extremely detrimental."

Captain Andrew Payne, a chaplain at the seafarers' centre, said the casino could cause chaos and disruption in the town, causing rowdiness and unsociable behaviour until 3am and 4am.

His concerns were echoed by many residents, who believe the whole character of the area will be altered and soured by more noise, drunkenness, damage to cars, windows and gardens.

Shops near the cinema in Crescent Road have also objected, fearing vandalism but also that the plan to provide no parking for the hotel and casino will mean the town centre car park and surrounding streets permanently full – driving away shoppers to Ipswich and Woodbridge.

Printmaker and illustrator Clare Curtis, of Penfold Road, said: "It saddens me that council decisions seem to perpetuate the notion that Felixstowe's sole purpose is to offer slot machines, arcades and tat to a stereotypical seaside visitor that is purely outdate.

"Perhaps they should think of the residents who live here in all seasons and what they need to nourish a healthy community."

Palatial Leisure believes the hotel would fill a niche in Felixstowe's hotel market, while the casino would cater for people who wanted a flutter on the tables and spend on average five to ten pounds. The complex would be members only.