Seafront plans finally get go ahead

AT LONG last derelict wasteland in Felixstowe is to be transformed into a housing and recreation development following an historic decision yesterday that ends 20 years of debate.

By Richard Smith

AT LONG last derelict wasteland in Felixstowe is to be transformed into a housing and recreation development following an historic decision yesterday that ends 20 years of debate.

More than 15 acres of land at the south seafront will become a site for 158 homes and a public park after Suffolk Coastal's development control south sub committee unanimously approved a scheme designed by the council and developers J S Bloor.

But the councillors overturned the council's policy in approving the project and therefore the decision will go to the office of the deputy prime minister to see if it should be “called in.”

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A major stumbling block still has to be overcome before anyone can live on the site - The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs announced this week funding was not immediately available for vital repairs to a flood defence scheme at Felixstowe.

And the council says the new homes can not be occupied until the coastal protection works have been done.

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The Environment Agency's support for the south seafront application was conditional on the defence works being carried out.

The fire-ravaged Herman de Stern building will be demolished and the surrounding area will have a catering facility and public space to create an entrance to the new development.

The Martello tower will be refurbished at a cost of £300,000 and could become an arts centre. There will be 16 units of affordable housing and 262 spaces for public car parking.

A plan for the south seafront was refused last year when councillors decided 209 homes were too many. Planning policy says residential development will only be accepted if it is a minor part of the land uses. The council admits that 158 homes could be too many, but the developers stated they were ''essential'' to pay for the £2.5million cost of recreation facilities.

David Wytchard, Bloor Homes regional designer, admitted the design of the scheme was not perfect but he added: “I passionately believe this scheme is a very good answer, it can be enjoyed by residents and visitors to Felixstowe for many years to come.”

Joan Sennington, a district councillor for the south ward, supported the scheme and she said: “Many years have been spent seeking an equitable plan for this site.

“I now believe this is a good plan, this plan will regenerate the shops in the area around Beach Station Road and it will bring much needed vitality to this run-down part of the town. I believe this offers something for everyone.''

Ivan Jowers, committee chairman, said he was “more than happy'' to see the Herman de Stern demolished and he said that the non-listed building did not contribute anything.

But Peter Mellor, of Cliff Road, Felixstowe, objected on behalf of the town council and 60 residents. He said the Martello tower would only be ''patched up'' under the proposals and he added: ''The Herman de Stern should become an asset to Felixstowe, but the district seems desperate to demolish it. Our cash strapped district is being tricked into a poor quality proposal.

''The report before the committee is very strongly biased in favour of Bloors, especially with the Herman de Stern building. It does not conform with the Local Plan and it should.

''Embarrassment due to the failure of 20 years is not a good enough reason for approving this or any other plan.''

Felixstowe district councillor Mike Ninnmey was also highly critical and said: ''The new plan is tinkering at the edges of the old one.

“100% of Felixstowe town council said the scheme was not the best for the long term benefit of Felixstowe.''

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