Fears over Art on the Prom at Felixstowe as beach huts cannot go back on shore
PUBLISHED: 15:45 26 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:45 26 May 2018
Organisers of one of Felixstowe’s biggest events have been left dismayed and worried about its future after it was decided to leave more than 60 huts on the prom because of beach erosion.
Mary and Stephen Wyatt, who lead Art on the Prom, which attracts 25,000 visitors, say the event could lose up to 30 stallholders – around one-third – and £2,000 income if it cannot use the walkway.
Mr Wyatt said: “We were given to understand that the beach huts would be removed from the prom by the time of Art on the Prom and we sold our artist stalls in good faith.
“Any repositioning of stalls will require a considerable amount of time and planning and artists may well withdraw when they find that they are strung out along a wide area.
“The whole nature of the event would be changed from a compact, coherent whole and footfall would become a problem for those located on the edges.
“In addition to the loss of artist stalls, access to the first aid post, to refreshment outlets and to the musicians would be much restricted.”
They have written to Suffolk Coastal District Council chief executive Stephen Baker to protest in the strongest terms.
But the council says it has already taken steps to make more space available on the prom by turning the 63 huts to face each other in pairs.
A council spokesman said: “Before arriving at this position a number of other options were considered, including moving the huts to a temporary storage area. This would have been a major logistic undertaking and would have had a knock on effect over the summer months on a large number of stakeholders.
“The decision has therefore been made to keep the huts at Pier North and the Spa, but turn them to face north and south, thus reducing their footprint to east and west.”
In an attempt to minimise impact on the art festival the hut owners have been told they will not be able to access their huts on the September 2. The council will work with the Felixstowe Beach Hut and Chalet Association to ensure this is adhered to.
The spokesman added: “We would like to offer reassurance that the turned huts allow enough space for the council’s various cleansing vehicles to be driven along the Prom each day and, even before the huts have been turned, we have had articulated vehicles on the Prom at the Spa taking down the old sea wall. This would indicate that there will be sufficient space for both the artists stalls and pedestrians.
“This pragmatic approach was decided upon in consultation with Felixstowe Town Council and Felixstowe Forward after the success of the car rally held on the prom and also of the fun run, both of which attracted very large crowds over the last Bank Holiday weekend and passed without incident.
“Both of these events had very little notice that the huts would be kept in situ, but worked closely with Felixstowe Forward to ensure that the impact was minimal and risks mitigated.
“We are aware that there may be some impact on Art on the Prom and that some compromise will be required due to the locations of the huts on the prom. However, we are confident that there is enough time to ensure that any issues can be addressed. Felixstowe Forward have been in regular contact with the organisers of Art on the Prom over the past few weeks and met with them immediately after the decision was made to discuss the situation.
“This is not the first time that the art festival has had to move some locations, as sea defence work in the past meant some locations on the prom were inaccessible. Council officers will be on hand to offer support and advice, borne from years of experience in event organisation in Felixstowe. This is not a situation that anyone would have wished for but if all parties are prepared to work together there is no reason why most expectations can not be met and the event pass off successfully.”