Felixstowe: Calls to ‘list’ seafront art deco tourist centre to protect it from bulldozers
10:00 10 August 2014
Community leaders are to consider applying for listed status to protect one of the last art deco buildings on Felixstowe seafront.
The property is facing an uncertain future after Suffolk Coastal put it up for sale for around £350,000.
Sited next to Felixstowe Town Hall, the building has served in recent years as the district council’s cash and customer service offices, and also houses the resort’s Tourist Information Centre (TIC) on the ground floor.
However, the council has decided the building is now surplus to requirements.
Felixstowe Town Council considered buying it and creating an upmarket wedding reception venue, two-bed apartment and shop, but the £1.5million total cost of purchase and refurbishment, and the need to attract 50 weddings a year to break even, scuppered the project.
Town councillor Michael Sharman said the need now was to protect the property for the future as it was one of Felixstowe’s most outstanding pieces of seafront architecture.
He said: “It’s a distinctive building because of its architecture, style and prominence, and is one of the very few art deco buildings remaining along the seafront.”
The town lost its most famous art deco building, the Cavendish Hotel in Sea Road, in 1988 when bulldozers moved in to demolish it during a process for listing.
Mr Sharman said the TIC building in Undercliff Road West had started life as Trent’s Cafe when people would enjoy superb sea views while taking coffee, and was later merged into the Town Hall complex during the days of Felixstowe Urban District Council.
Twice it had been the TIC, and also traditional seaside bucket and spade shops, with the council offices upstairs.
He called for an application to be made to English Heritage for listing on the grounds of its “architectural merit and prominence on the seafront”.
Councillor Margaret Morris backed the motion and said the property was “a very significant feature of the street scene”.
Mayor Graham Newman said the matter was too serious to be discussed without proper research and reflection and it would be decided next month by the council’s finance and general purposes committee.
Any application for listed status will be investigated by English Heritage but then, if accepted, ratified by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.
The council is concerned at what future use the property, currently on the open market with Spice Property Consultants, might have – especially as it is said to be suitable for refurbishment or redevelopment.
Meanwhile, Suffolk Coastal is considering moving the TIC into the library in the town centre as part of “relocating our services where they can be more accessible and be provided more effectively”.