Will Trust buy historic tower?

TALKS are under way today with the National Trust to see if it would be willing to buy an historic Martello Tower at the heart of a seafront development site.

TALKS are under way today with the National Trust to see if it would be willing to buy an historic Martello Tower at the heart of a seafront development site.

But campaigners are staggered so many decisions are being taken about the monument, which needs £650,000 of repairs and refurbishment, without councillors being told or even consulted.

They would like to see the tower – which stands in the middle of Felixstowe's 17-acre south seafront – become part of an east coast maritime defence trail.

However, council officers have already decided that it should become an art gallery – despite, opponents say, a gallery not being a family attraction or the building even being remotely suitable.

Tonight the tower will come under the spotlight when town councillors meet to give their view on the proposals for the 17-acre south seafront site at 7pm at Langer Primary School.

Liberal Democrat councillors Harry Dangerfield, Mike Ninnmey and Dot Paddick would like to see the tower opened to the public as a military museum or part of a trail including Bawdsey Manor, Orfordness, Landguard Fort, and also a cold war bunker on the south seafront.

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Mr Ninnmey said: "I am staggered to learn that the National Trust is being asked to take it over when councillors have not been told about it at all, not even members of the task group for this project.

"The officers are backing an art gallery, people outside the council have been asked to comment, but councillors have not been asked for their views at all on a council owned property!

"I would have thought that building was least suitable for an art gallery – art galleries need lots of natural light, not buildings with 15ft thick walls and tiny windows.

"But no-one is being given the chance to have an alternative view."

Even though the task group masterminding the £15 million-plus project has not met since May last year, the council's development partners Bloor Homes have put in plans for the south seafront site.

In its submission Bloor says it and the council are committed to the retention, enhancement and future positive beneficial use of the tower, which will be at the heart of the development.

European funding was being pursued and local artists were being talked to about the possibility of using it as a gallery.

"In order to explore all available avenues to secure the beneficial future public use of, and access to, the tower, the council has, after consulting with the cabinet member with responsibility for the project, commenced discussion with the National Trust about its possible acquisition of the tower," said Bloor.

n What do you think the tower should be used for? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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