Volunteers fear eviction
VOLUNTEERS who man an emergency look-out point over the sea are to seek urgent talks with council chiefs amid fears they could be evicted.Coastwatch uses Martello Tower P at Felixstowe to keep watch over people using the beaches and sea as part of the town's network of rescue services.
VOLUNTEERS who man an emergency look-out point over the sea are to seek urgent talks with council chiefs amid fears they could be evicted.
Coastwatch uses Martello Tower P at Felixstowe to keep watch over people using the beaches and sea as part of the town's network of rescue services.
But Suffolk Coastal is now to seek European funding to renovate the Napoleonic fort and turn it into a tourist attraction as part of the 17-acre south seafront development.
No final decisions have been made on whether Coastwatch could continue to use the top of the tower, a former Coastguard Station, but a council report has cast doubt over whether the group could stay.
Although it was assured last year that its future use was safe, the report to cabinet said "the presence of Coastwatch could hinder public use of the tower as a viewing point" and suggested Coastwatch could be relocated.
John Lowery, public relations and recruitment officer for Felixstowe Coastwatch, said the council's plans for the tower had come "as a bolt out of the blue" and the group would be seeking a meeting as soon as possible.
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"We are just very, very surprised by this – we thought they were happy that we should stay there and carry on the role we have been doing," said Mr Lowery.
"The tower provides the best vantage point for keeping an eye on everything that is happening on the seafront and Coastwatch plays an important role in the network of rescue services for the resort.
"I don't believe there is alternative suitable accommodation – where else could we get that height? The tower was designed for surveillance of the sea and I am sure a way could be found for it to be a tourist attraction as well."
The group had at one stage during the design of the south seafront scheme suggested a storey being added to a proposed toilet block to act as a look-out but this had not been followed up and it was thought the tower would still be used.
English Heritage has told council officials it expects the tower, which sits in the centre of the development site and also has a nationally-important cold war bunker, to be restored and open for visitors.
Councillors have allocated £35,00 towards the renovation of the tower – the full cost is not known and it is hoped Euro cash from the Holding the Fort project will be received – and £25,000 for specialist technical advice.
Bloor Homes are preparing a planning application for the south seafront which will include 175 homes, café, upmarket pub-restaurant, car parking, gardens, wooden galleon and an ampitheatre.
n What do you think – what should happen to the Martello Tower? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk