Waterfront bid to tempt tourists
THOUSANDS more tourists could be encouraged to visit one of Suffolk's most valuable assets.An action plan is being drawn up to highlight the unique attractions of the river Deben in Woodbridge and unlock the potential of the waterfront as a major economic catalyst for the town.
By Richard Smith
THOUSANDS more tourists could be encouraged to visit one of Suffolk's most valuable assets.
An action plan is being drawn up to highlight the unique attractions of the river Deben in Woodbridge and unlock the potential of the waterfront as a major economic catalyst for the town.
The Ministry of Defence has already announced plans to spend up to £100million on the town's airbase. Now a further jobs boost has been lined up for Woodbridge with the unveiling of a 10-year strategy to integrate the waterfront with the historic market town.
A company has expressed interest in turning the redundant Whisstock's boatyard into a hotel, but if that falls through the public are keen to see the site turned into a maritime heritage centre.
But Richard Hare, a founder member of the River Deben Association, warned: "There is a tremendous potential to attract a really good standard of tourism – but you have to be careful you do not slay the goose that lays the golden egg."
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Mr Hare lives in Quayside, a main road, which has been highlighted in need of a major facelift.
He said: "We have lost trees here and we have austere and ugly street lights that the county council put up. We are really glad that there is a group forming which will be empowered to address these issues and save this potentially wonderful area of the town."
More than 100 people representing a variety of interests have taken part in a three-month consultation programme to discuss how to "manage, enhance and protect" the Deben waterfront.
Project consultant Martin Whitaker said: "The local economy, threatened by edge-of-town superstores and the renaissance of Ipswich and surrounding towns, will thrive by attracting more spending visitors. The riverside has a unique and important role to play in this.
"The waterfront is quite unique for the mixture of amenities and small business activities that you find on it, and for lying in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty."
The key recommendations include striking stronger links with the National Trust's new visitor centre at Sutton Hoo to encourage more visitors to enter Woodbridge; opening up views of the river from Woodbridge, providing more public toilets, painting the railway bridge, tidying up the town beach and improving signposting.
Mr Whitaker said: "The river is very important to visitors and the residents. But sometimes visitors come to the Thoroughfare and do not realise there is a river nearby.
"Quayside is an ugly road and reflects badly on Woodbridge. It is too busy and cuts the river off from the town.
"We need to look at a coherent traffic management plan in that area that will allow the river to be joined up to the town centre again."
Tony Hubbard, chairman of the Woodbridge Society, said he would like to see plans that linked the riverside with the town's Thoroughfare and Market Hill.
He said: "The biggest problem is getting people across the feeder road – Station Road and Quayside – between the waterfront and the town.
"That's the barrier and there has got to be a mechanism of getting pedestrians easily across that road. It's easier said than done. It needs a clever treatment of that highway.
"But I think the project is on the right lines in trying to link the town with the waterfront."
A radical proposal is to examine the possibility of taking down the Elmhurst Park wall fronting Quayside to allow the public to fully appreciate the beauty of the award-winning park.
Mr Whitaker will present an exhibition at the Crown Hotel, Woodbridge, tomorrow from 9am-5pm, on Sunday, from 11am-4pm and Monday, from 10am-8pm.